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CSU receives EPA award to support research

Nik Olsen
CSU Cooperative Extension

EFFECTS OF ONION PESTS

MUTED BY STRAW MULCH

Onion thrips, minute insects that cause millions of dollars in damages to onion crops in Colorado and the West, can be controlled, according to researchers from CSU. By using straw mulch to contain onion thrip populations, growers can control the insects and the iris yellow-spot virus caused by the insects.

The Colorado State research team has received a three-year, $126,400 award, one of three national awards from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Strategic Agriculture Initiative Program.

“This (onion thrips) has been affecting the onion industry in Colorado and the West for five years now,” said Howard Schwartz, professor in the Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management in CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “The damage can result in estimated losses from $2.5 million to $5 million per year for Colorado growers.”

Schwartz is collaborating with Whitney Cranshaw and Raj Khosla, both professors in CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The presence of thrips and iris yellow-spot virus can reduce the overall size of the onion bulb, and a reduction in bulb size cuts into growers’ profits.

Schwartz said the use of straw mulch has proven to be more effective than conventional pesticides. Relying exclusively on high-risk insecticides for managing thrips has produced less-than-favorable results while boosting thrip populations’ resistance to insecticide.

The goal of the Colorado State project is to demonstrate that straw mulch treatment and bio-pesticides can reduce populations of onion thrips and impacts of pest feeding and virus transmission, alleviating plant stress and conserving soil moisture, Schwartz said.


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