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UI Extension online dashboard posts ag pest-monitoring data

By John O’Connell

University of Idaho

MOSCOW, Idaho – After a year of fine-tuning, University of Idaho Extension is promoting a website launched to offer a “one-stop shop” for Idaho farmers and crop consultants providing data from the various College of Agricultural and Life Sciences pest monitoring programs.

The Idaho Pest Monitoring Dashboard debuted last spring and includes data and observations from UI Extension programs that monitor the arrival of potato psyllids, aphids and wind-blown spores to inform farmers in making decisions such as when to apply chemicals.

The site consolidates information now available to growers through a host of different websites and via Pacific Northwest Pest Alerts, which are sent by email or text messages.

The dashboard makes it easier for users to navigate and manipulate displays of the data and for Extension staff to upload new data and instantly update charts and graphs.

The site also enables users to create their own graphs isolating data for specific years or counties of interest.

“We needed time to figure out how to use it ourselves, so we haven’t been promoting it until now,” said Kasia Duellman, UI Extension seed potato specialist. “The IPM dashboard is dynamic and you can look at it and play with the data and see what’s happening in your area.”

The site currently links to pages devoted to a network of sticky card traps for monitoring potato psyllids that spread zebra chip disease in potatoes, a network of spore traps warning growers of the risk of late blight and other fungal potato diseases, an aphid trapping program warning potato farmers from potato virus Y (PVY) in southern and eastern Idaho and an aphid trapping program in northern Idaho and Eastern Washington detecting viruses of importance to pea and lentil growers.

Sanford Eigenbrode, a University Distinguished Professor of entomology, started the pea and lentil aphid monitoring network, called the Legume Virus Project, in 2007.

UI Extension plant pathologist James Woodhall’s spore trapping page is still a work in progress and will eventually include short videos offering observations to growers.

His program started in 2018, using 12 to 15 spore trapping sites, and he’s developed a strong predictor of late blight risk using a basic model factoring spore trapping data and humidity.

Woodhall’s network also provides useful data regarding early blight, white mold, brown spot and grey mold, benefiting growers of potatoes, onions, sugar beets grapes and hops.

Duellman’s PVY aphid-trapping program launched in 2019 and now includes 30 sites in seven counties. The program primarily relies on bucket traps for field-level data and it is augmented by four suction traps ranging in height from 12 feet to 35 feet to monitor aphids that may be migrating regionally.

“It alerts farmers when we’re having flights of aphids and when we are seeing peak flights,” Duellman said. “Now our goal is to pair our aphid numbers with post-harvest testing. What kind of virus levels are in daughter tubers of those crops? We might be able to generate some kind of model to predict PVY risk in seed potato crops based on aphid flights.”

Among other benefits, such a model could help early generation seed potato growers assess risk over time, which could provide information on where best to place early generation fields to increase seed potatoes. 

Erik Wenninger, UI Extension specialist in entomology based at the Kimberly Research and Extension Center, oversees the psyllid trapping program, which uses sticky traps deployed around 70 to 100 potato fields across the state per season.

Psyllids spread a bacterium associated with zebra chip disease, which causes discoloration in tubers and yield loss.

Wenninger’s psyllid program started in 2012 which was the last year in which zebra chip infections were widespread in Idaho. Since then, Idaho has been fortunate not to have high psyllid populations and a high percentage of infected psyllids during the same year.

During 2016, for example, the trapping program caught more than 6,500 psyllids, but only 1.9% of them were infected with the Liberibacter bacterium, which is associated with zebra chip.

In 2022, 22% of the psyllids captured on sticky traps tested positive for Liberibacter in laboratory testing by University Distinguished Professor Alexander Karasev.

It was the first year since 2012 in which Idaho experienced a high percentage of Liberibacter infections.

However, the program captured only 150 psyllids during 2022 – the fewest in the program’s history. The average of captured psyllids that tested positive for the bacterium during the five summers prior to 2022 was below 1%.