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Soil temperature can predict pest spread in crops

Soil temperature can predict pest spread in crops
Soil temperature may be used to predict the spread of the corn earworm. Credit: Anders Huseth, NC State University

A fresh study from NEW YORK State University shows soil temperature may be used to effectively monitor and predict the spread of the corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), a pest that ravages corn, cotton, soybeans, peppers, tomatoes along with other vegetable crops. The opportunity to better monitor the pest and make predictions about where it’ll appear may help farmers control the pest better, which would decrease the financial and environmental impacts of pesticide use.

The researchers combined historical soil temperature data with long-term corn earworm monitoring data and here is how the pest survives cold weather in a lab setting to raised understand “overwintering success,” or how well the pest may survive underground through the colder winter season.

Greater overwintering success can expand the areas where in fact the pest can live and thrive, the researchers say, because the pest can migrate long distances. Generally, greater overwintering success in more northern latitudes escalates the prospect of crop damage out of this pest further north. Climate change also affects overwintering success.

“There exists a preconceived notion that pests have little overwintering success north of 40 degrees latitude,” said Douglas Lawton, a former NC State postdoctoral researcher and co-corresponding writer of a paper that describes the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “That could have already been true in the 1930s, however now we’ve more data-guided evidence to ask and answer fully the question, ‘Where can this species actually overwinter?'”

The study implies that 40 degrees latitude isn’t the very best division for overwintering success, so much so the researchers devised their very own mapsoverlaying the three different data setsto show three relevant geographic zones: A “southern range” where pests survive on the winter season, a “northern limits” area where pests are usually struggling to survive during winter season, and a “transitional zone” among the northern and southern areas where pests may or might not survive on the winter.

“These areas are biologically relevant and supported through studies in the lab and the academic literature,” Lawton said.

The researchers used the three zones showing historical trends for the corn earworm and used a model to create predictions about pest spread extending to the finish of the century. Strikingly, the southern range grew by 3% since 1981. The models suggest the southern range will double in proportions by the finish of the century and shift well to the north, with another two zones shrinking.

“Because the climate changes, the overwintering zones will probably shift northward,” said Anders Huseth, assistant professor of entomology at NC State and the paper’s other co-corresponding author.

Minnesota, using its , saw no corn earworm overwintering success from 1950 through 2021, the info show. By the finish of the century, however, the predictive models show the complete state firmly in the transitional zone.

“This is actually the canary in the coal mine for agricultural pests,” Huseth said. “Making sense of what’s occurring with this particular pest is actually very important to agricultural producers. We’ve shown here the part of uncertainty that may have undeniable effects on farmers and potentially new opportunities for pesticide resistance selection. Our models visualize that change and offer touchstones for pest management.

“Now we want to create an improved forecasting tool because of this pest, plus a risk-prediction model, to be able to give growers better information regarding spread. Success here could reduce both charges for farmers and pesticide in to the environment.”

More info: Pest population dynamics are linked to a continental overwintering gradient, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2203230119.

Citation: Soil temperature can predict pest spread in crops (2022, September 5) retrieved 5 September 2022 from

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