Tag Archives: michigan department of agriculture

MSUE educators key in identifying invasive pest

Recently, Michigan received the bad news that another invasive pest has arrived in our state – the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The unwelcome guest feeds on fruits, vegetables, corn, soybeans and much more. It is difficult to control with insecticides and is a smelly nuisance that clusters on and in homes when the weather turns cold.

 Michigan State University Extension staff members as well as employees of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and other agencies are vigilant about identifying and mitigating the effects of any new pests that enter our borders.

 An MSU student collected the first specimen in Berrien County for a class project. It was his instructor in the course, MSUE educator Duke Elsner, who identified the bug as one of concern. Dr. Elsner submitted it to the USDA for further verification. A resident in Eaton County brought the second specimen to his local Extension office to MSUE educator George Silva, who sent it to MSU Diagnostic Services. There, entomologist Howard Russell identified it as a brown marmorated stink bug and forwarded it to APHIS for confirmation.

 MSU entomology specialists are gathering information and writing research proposals to address the issues this new pest will create.

 If you are curious about this pest, learn more from this fact sheet developed by entomologist Chris DiFonzo along with Howard Russell.


Filed under Entomology

Response team discovers fruit pest, takes action

Sometimes the discovery of something very small has a very big impact. That’s what happened when a tiny vinegar fly called the Spotted Wing Drosophila or SWD was first detected this September in traps put out this year by Michigan State University entomologists. Originally from Asia, the insect established a base in the western United States and Canada. The MSU discovery marks the first time that the insect has been found in the Midwest. This miniature pest loves tasty, soft treats damaging most berry crops, grapes, cherries and other tree fruits.

 A Michigan SWD response team chaired by Rufus Isaacs, MSU entomologist, developed a pre-emptive Early Detection-Rapid Response (ED-RR) Plan, part of an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy for SWD. Entomologists and horticulturists from the MSU departments of Entomology and Horticulture, MSU Extension field staff members, Michigan Department of Agriculture staff members and fruit commodity representatives make up the team. I’d like to congratulate this group. Team members were on top of the issue, first discovering the pesky critter, then taking action. The team is doing further monitoring and is getting the word out to fruit growers to encourage them to plan for early detection through trapping, monitoring and taking crop-specific control measures.

 Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications staff members helped in spreading the word with a news release and fact sheet. Rufus Isaacs and Noel Hahn, from the Department of Entomology, and Bob Tritten and Carlos Garcia, MSU Extension, wrote the fact sheet, MSU Extension Bulletin E-3140. Even though he is on assignment in Chile, Dr. Isaacs is still on the job keeping track of SWD and the media coverage of it.

 Our staff members are actively researching and monitoring the bug to minimize its impact on fruit growers. The Spotted Wind Drosophila website gives up-to-date information, and our MSU Extension educators are in contact with fruit growers, giving out information and advice.

Project GREEEN and the Michigan Department of Agriculture provide funding for the SWD response team.

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Filed under Entomology

Watch out for mosquitos and bed bugs

Several alerts have come out in the past few days worth noting. One relates to a diagnosis of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in two and possibly three horses in southwestern Michigan (Calhoun, Barry and Cass counties) and the other is a general alert to the increasing spread of bed bugs. EEE is a bird virus carried by mosquitos to other animals. Horses are particularly vulnerable to its effects, but humans can be affected as well. For horses AND humans, the best approach is prevention: a simple vaccine is available to protect horses. For humans, the best approach is to reduce the likelihood of encountering a mosquito – eliminate habitats for mosquito larvae (small pockets of stagnant water), keep your windows and doors covered with screens, use clothing and repellant when outdoors in mosquito country. You can find more information on EEE at the Michigan Department of Agriculture website.

 Bed bugs are showing up with greater frequency in commercial lodging facilities as a consequence of “hitchhiking” in luggage and clothing of travelers from parts of the world where they are more prevalent. Again, prevention is the key, and you’ll find valuable guidance at the Michigan Department of Community Health web site. There’s a great resource – the Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs available from the web site. If you like to get creeped out by photos of insects, you’ll definitely want to check out the cover photo of the manual. And I love the title of the first chapter, “Getting to Know the Bed Bug.” Makes you want to curl up in bed and read that one before falling asleep!

 Thanks to Michael Kauffman, Michigan State University Extension specialist in entomology, for being a part of the Michigan Bed Bug Working Group and for keeping us all informed of these serious issues. I know I won’t be chuckling if I wake up with red bite marks on my body some morning.

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Filed under Entomology

Innovation is a way of life

I had a chance to watch Walters Gardens, Inc. receive Michigan Department of Agriculture 2008 Exporter of the Year award this week. The Zeeland-based company is North America’s leading wholesale source of perennial plants for gardens and landscaping.

It’s clear that Michigan’s “southern climate” has contributed to their success in exporting product to Canada, their largest international market. What struck me was that they add more than 100 varieties to their inventory each year, and that continuous emphasis on innovation—bringing new products to new markets—accounts for much of their growth. It really reminded me how important innovation is for so many businesses and organizations.

As we wrestle with redesigning MSU Extension, we have to remember our motivation: striving to bring new products and services “to market” as a means of staying relevant and current to our stakeholders.

So how does the model of innovation from a perennial producer translate to an educational organization? There are many examples I can draw from our work. Recently, Jason Scott, Oakland County 4-H educator, responded to a call for proposals to develop and implement a pilot project for fostering learning around science, engineering and technology (SET) among youth in urban communities. The idea is for youth to use digital technology as a means of becoming engaged and active learners, using the technology to explore science topics in the context of their communities. Jason’s proposal was one of eight from across the country selected by the National 4-H Council. He, along with two teens and two adult team members, will travel to the National 4-H Conference Center in Maryland next month to develop their project in concert with the seven other teams.

It remains to be seen what will become of this project or how it might be translated to other communities across Michigan. But this kind of innovation—developing new approaches to reach new audiences with new programs—can help us achieve the excellence to which we aspire in all programs.

Do you have an MSUE program that fosters innovation? Perhaps through our own internal competitive grants programs, such as the 4-H participation fee grants and the Program Development Fund? Tell me about it in the comments section.

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Filed under 4-H, Awards, Farming, Gardening, professional development