By MATTHEW WEAVER
Researchers are looking for more funding to continue tracking aphids in an effort to provide early detection of viruses that affect pulse crops.
A $750,000 USDA grant funded the four-year tracker project to understand more about aphids and how they carry viruses, University of Idaho entomologist and project leader Sanford Eigenbrode said.
The project originated following an outbreak of virus that damaged 20 percent of pulse production in the Palouse.
Diana Roberts, regional specialist for Washington State University Spokane County Extension, said aphids carry virus some years.
If the aphids do not carry virus, the plants can tolerate a higher number of the insects without much damage, Roberts said. But if they do carry virus, the damage is significant.
Researchers want to come up with a recommendation for the best time to spray insecticides.
Aphid outbreaks seem to occur every seven years, said Todd Scholz, director of research and information for the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council. The last virus infection occurred five to six years ago.
"We're overdue for one," Eigenbrode said, before correcting himself. "The probability of there being a bad year is the same this year as it's been all the last six years."
The tracker could identify signs of a bad year earlier, with the arrival of aphids, and help producers prevent severe crop loss.
Last year could have even been an outbreak year, Eigenbrode said, but early screening may have cut it off.
Eigenbrode estimated it would cost $20,000 a year to maintain the current level of surveillance, checking 90 traps twice a week from the last week of May through July.
"There's some really good science that could happen with continuing funding at a more generous level," Eigenbrode said. "I'd like to know which questions are most compelling for the industry, as well as for us."
Eigenbrode plans to apply for funding through the council.
Scholz remembered that Eigenbrode proposed the project to the council for funding for several years before the aphid outbreak, without success because there was no virus.
"Then we had the aphid and they all looked at each other and said, 'Maybe it wasn't such a good idea not to fund Sanford," he said.
The University of Idaho's Aphid Tracker project concludes with the Legume Virus Symposium, beginning at 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Best Western University Inn, 1516 W. Pullman Road in Moscow, Idaho.
To register, contact Roberts at email@example.com or phone 509-477-2167. Some scholarships are available for people to stay overnight for the Western Pea and Lentil Growers Association meeting the next day.