Sustainable management of insects and mites in crop and vegetable systems in Texas Panhandle
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Insects and mites that attack crops and vegetables pose significant risks to profitability of agricultural production owing to direct losses to yield (Pimentel et al. 2005) and indirect expenditures related to pest suppression (Pimentel et al. 1993). These threats pose substantial risks to profitability of agriculture in Texas given that 130 million acres of land are in agricultural production in Texas and market value of agricultural production exceeds $25 billion (USDA NASS 2012). Moreover, common agricultural practices that include infrequent crop rotation, increasing farm size, preventative insecticide applications, and continuous use of crops genetically engineered to express limited diversity of anti-pest toxins commonly contribute to increased risk for pest outbreaks (Bianchi et al. 2006, Hendrickx et al. 2007, Landis et al. 2008, Gardiner et al. 2009, Gassmann et al. 2011). These practices require recurrent monitoring of instances of insect and mite outbreaks, incidence of insecticide resistance and development of tactics that prolong effectiveness of insecticides through proper rotation and adherence to guidelines for chemical suppression of pests. Taken together, these sustainable approaches to management of insect and mite pests promote long-term profitability of crop and vegetable production in the region and contribute to securing safe and nutritious food supply produced with lower environmental costs.Moreover, propensity for arthropod outbreaks in such highly managed system is especially relevant in context of arthropods that vector plant diseases, where direct feeding injury caused by the herbivore is coupled with a systemic injury brought about by the pathogen they vector. In many cases, the indirect impact of arthropod vectors, i.e., transmission of plant pathogens, outweighs the direct feeding injury thereby elevating the negative consequences of arthropod infestations (Stout et al. 2006). While some basic research on mechanisms underlying plant responses to arthropod and pathogen attack has been recently done (Huot et al. 2013), little is known about the physiological and molecular mechanisms governing plant responses to simultaneous arthropod and pathogen attack in conditions of drought and under conventional crop production regimens. Expanding our basic knowledge of these mechanisms will improve precision of the practical recommendations developed to suppress arthropod pests and mitigate their environmental and economic costs.Already established insects and mites pose quantifiable risks to agriculture. However, emerging new pests that arise through expansion of host or geographical range (e.g., sugarcane aphid) and introductions of invasive species (e.g., saltcedar) present new and largely unknown threats (Pimentel et al. 2005). Timely research focused on early effects of invasions by emerging pests and tactics to mitigate their impact is necessary to limit their negative effects on agricultural production. Recent emergence of sugarcane aphid as a significant pest of sorghum, for example, prompted extensive and thorough research of biology and management of this pest on its new host plant in southern Texas (Brewer et al. 2013, Bowling et al. 2015), but has not been researched in High Plains yet.