Washington State University researchers along with their colleagues within the Western States Cereal Leaf Beetle Team have declared a war on the bug.
For past victories, the team has been honored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a Safeguarding Award for use of biological controls to lower the impact of the beetle in cereal crops.
The insect has the potential to decrease yields by 25%.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture first reported the pest in the state in 1999, and began releasing natural enemies the next year. Since 2003, the team led by WSU Extension Educator Diane Roberts, has expanded the program.
The team comprised of scientists from state and federal agencies and universities in seven states and three Canadian provinces.
"The teamwork and collaboration was excellent – they have been a great group to work with," says Roberts.
Rather than using pesticides to ward off the beetles, which eventually cost growers more for repeated applications, another insect combats the beetle, she explains. Using such parasitoids is a biocontrol considered harmless to people and animals as well as plants.
Because the work done by the team, farmers in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region have been able to minimize negative impacts resulting from the beetles. The use of the biocontrol saves Washington growers nearly $7 million a year, Roberts points out.
The Safeguarding Award recognizes initiatives and innovations that make significant contributions to protecting American agriculture. The prize, bestowed by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is "unusual recognition," says Mitchell Nelson, Oregon APHIS director.
"Biological control work has very seldom been set apart for special recognition within APHIS," he says, "which makes this award doubly valued."