Research conducted over the last 10-15 years has made significant strides in enhancing our knowledge of the mechanisms that drive direct and indirect plant resistance to herbivores, and we understand them better than ever before. These advances have rarely been applied to integrated pest management, however, and crop protection remains largely dependent on applications of insecticides to prevent and treat pest outbreaks. Szczepaniec Lab is keenly interested in plant-insect interactions but firmly rooted in applied research, and we integrate molecular approaches with field and greenhouse research to promote deeper understanding of mechanisms that lower resistance of plants in managed landscapes. The goal of our work is to make meaningful contributions to extend this knowledge to plant protection to improve long-term sustainability of pest management in diverse systems including trees and shrubs, vegetables, alternative and niche crops.
Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and Colorado is one of the leading producers of floral hemp used for cannabinoid extraction. Our lab works collaboratively to develop integrated pest management that is effective, feasible for growers, sustainable, and ecologically sound. Current work includes research on suppression of hemp russet mites, Aculops cannibicola Farkas (Acari: Eriophyidae), and IPM for pests associated with organic hemp production.
Chili peppers have been a profitable specialty crop in Arkansas Valley of Colorado, requiring few pest control tactics and costly insecticide inputs. However, recent incidence of a viral disease, alfalfa mosaic virus (AMV) transmitted to peppers by aphids has threatened the sustainability and profitability of this valuable specialty crop. The goal of this work is to develop effective integrated pest management tactics to suppress this virus and its vector in chili peppers.
Quinoa, Chenopodium quinoa Willd (Amaranthaceae) – a traditionally Andean grain cultivated in South America for over 5,000 years is an excellent climate-resilient crop that has been grown in the US since the late 1980’s. However, a stem-boring insect has recently colonized quinoa in Colorado (and neighboring states) – an agromyzid fly, Amauromyza karli Hendel (Diptera: Agromyzidae). This insect has affected all acreage of quinoa in Colorado. We are working on developing IPM for A. karli to suppress its devastating impact on quinoa.