Jamming Leafhopper Signals

Jamming Leafhopper Signals to Reduce Insect Populations that Vector Plant Disease

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

 

An innovative team of researchers at the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) in Parlier Calif., are trying to confuse leafhopper communication in hopes of reducing certain devastating plant diseases. Of particular interest is the glassy-winged sharpshooter, a large leafhopper that can vector or spread the bacteria Xylella fastidiosa from one plant to another which causes devastating plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease in grapes and almond leaf scorch

 

Dr. Rodrigo Krugner, a research entomologist on the USDA-ARS Parlier team since 2007, explained, “We started on this glassy-winged sharpshooter communication project about two years ago. These insects use substrate-borne vibrations, or sounds, to talk to, identify and locate each other; actually do courtship; and then mate,” Krugner said.

Click here to hear LEAFHOPPER SOUNDS!

Glassywinged Sharp Shooter
Glassywinged Sharp Shooter

 

“This area of research started probably 40, or 50 years ago with development of a commercially-available laser doppler vibrometer (LDV), a scientific instrument used to make non-contact vibration measurements of a surface,” Krugner said. “Commonly used in the automotive and aerospace engineering industries, the LDV enabled an entomologist to listen to and amplify leafhoppers communicating,” Krugner said. “We’ve been doing recordings in the laboratory, learning about their communication with the idea of breaking, or disrupting, that communication. Once we disrupt that, we can disrupt mating and thereby reduce their numbers in vineyards and among other crops.”

 

Krugner noted the research team is evaluating two different approaches: one is to discover signals that disrupt their communication, and the other is lure them away from crops or towards a trap. “We may be looking at female calls, for example. An analogous system would be the pheromones, or long-range attraction volatile chemicals released by female lepidoptera, to attract males.” However, since leafhoppers use only sound, Krugner said, “We’re trying to come up with signals to disrupt their mating communication. We’re also looking at signals to jam their frequency range, 4000-6000 Hz, so they cannot hear each other,” Kruger said. “We’re also looking at signals that can be used to aggregate them, or lure them, into one section of a crop, or maybe repel them from the crop. These are all different approaches that we’re investigating right now.”

 

Krugner explained, “Researchers are attempting to perfect the disruptive sounds in order to do the things we need—to actually implement a management strategy for disrupting not only glassy-winged sharpshooter, but anything in a vineyard that actually communicates using vibrational communication. We know what they are saying to each other, which is very important. In the laboratory, the signals that we have look promising in disrupting the communication of these insects, so we’re taking them into the field.

 

Current mating disruption trials are underway in Fresno State vineyards. “We’re going to finish that research, hopefully, next year,” said Krugner, adding, “usually, fieldwork takes two to three years to show something.”


(Featured photo:  Rodrigo Krugner, research entomologist, USDA-ARS, Parlier)


 

Westlands Water District Announces Westside Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations to the Westlands Water District Westside Scholarship Recipients!

Six outstanding high school seniors from communities on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley have been selected to receive scholarships offered by the Westlands Water District. The 2015 scholarships are offered by Westlands under a program to recognize and reward exceptional academic achievement and leadership by graduate seniors at area high schools.

The recipients of the 2015 scholarships are:

Aneet Hundal, a senior at Coalinga High School. Ms. Hundal is an honors student who plans on attending the University of California, Irvine to pursue a degree in nursing. She was actively involved in the Academic Decathlon, Mock Trial, Link Crew, California Scholarship Federation and tennis and basketball. Additionally, she has received a number of awards including the Superintendent’s Honor Roll, Lab Biology II Star of the Month and Wendy’s High School Heisman.

Phillip Augusto, a senior at Lemoore High School. Mr. Augusto plans to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to pursue a degree in BioResource and Agricultural Engineering. He is an honors student who has received awards from the Future Farmers of America – Scholar Awards, State Degree, Chapter Degree and Greenhand Degree. Additionally, he has been a Robotics Team finalist at West Hills Collect Vex Robotics Competition and Student of the Month for the Lemoore High School Math Department.

Emily Parra, a senior at Tranquillity High School. Ms. Parra plans to attend Stanford University to pursue a degree in Economics/Education. She is an honors student who has been the president of the California Scholarship Federation, Associated Student Body Secretary and World Travel Club Vice President, Mathematician of the Year and Student of the Month.

Jackelyn Sanchez, a senior at Riverdale High School. Ms. Sanchez plans to attend University of California, San Diego to pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering. She is an honors student who has competed in Academic Decathlon, is an AVID 8th Grade Tutor, Student of the Month, Science Olympiad Competitor, and won an End of the Year Award for maintaining a GPA above 4.0 throughout her high school career.

Gaston Ruben Aganza, a senior at Mendota High School. Mr. Aganza plans to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to pursue a degree in Engineering. He has held leadership positions in chess and Upward Bound and has participated in AVID, Young Legislators Program, Lend-A-Hand and MESA. Additionally, he was a cross-country runner.

Teddi Diedrich, a senior at Firebaugh High School. Ms. Diedrich plans to attend Menlo College to pursue a degree in agricultural business. She has received several awards in AVID (Student of the Year), Future Farmers of America Greenhand Degree, Honor Roll, Athlete Scholar, the Superintendent’s List and State Future Farmers of America and has also played softball and volleyball.

Each scholarship recipient will receive $1,000 to be used for community college or university expenses. Applicants were judged on their academic performance, school activities and community leadership. Each applicant submitted an essay on an agricultural-related topic.

“Westlands is honored to provide this assistance for these outstanding student leaders,” said Tom Birmingham, general manager of Westlands. “These scholarships represent a small gesture of thanks and support to the communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that make our region such a productive and vibrant place.”