Pest Management Research Grants Awarded 2016

Back to Funded Pest Management Research Grants (2013 - present)

There was $1,100,000 in grant funds available for the 2016-2017 Pest Management Research Grant Program. Approximately 55% of the total was allocated to projects that explored using integrated pest management (IPM) to reduce pesticide-related risks associated with agricultural field fumigants. The remaining 45% was allocated competitively to projects that explored using IPM to reduce risks associated with other high-risk pesticides as well as projects focused on reducing risks associated with fumigants. DPR reviewed submitted concepts and determined that fourteen met the basic eligibility and priority requirements defined in the solicitation. Full proposals were reviewed and scored by both DPR and the Pest Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) in four areas: project background, project design and analysis, scope of work and budget, and budget narrative. After considering recommendations from the PMAC and DPR staff, the Director selected five projects for full funding. All projects are approximately three years long and began in July 2016.

Project Summaries

  • Optimizing Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation for Management of Prunus Replant Problems

    Almond and stone fruit orchards account for approximately 1 million acres in the Central Valley of California. Successive generations of almonds and stone fruits are subject to replant problems, especially by growth suppression induced by soil microbial complexes (called Prunus replant disease, PRD) and by plant-parasitic nematodes (PPN). Both PRD and PPN are controlled primarily by preplant soil fumigation, a problem in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere where urbanization has encroached on agricultural lands, posing serious environmental challenges.

    The overall goal of this project is to develop effective and affordable non-fumigant-based control of almond and stone fruit replant problems in California using anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD). ASD creates anaerobic soil conditions by incorporating readily available carbon sources into topsoil. Naturally occurring microbial anaerobic decomposers respire using the added carbon and produce metabolites that have biocidal activity.

    Objectives of the research will be: 1) to optimize and improve ASD treatments by reducing their costs, simplifying their application methods, and broadly testing their efficacy for control of PRD and PPN; 2) to involve growers in further ASD optimization, testing, and demonstration; and 3) to conduct cost-benefit analyses of ASD. Project results will be extended to stakeholders via field days, meetings, online media, and popular and technical publications.

    This project will provide a model for other orchard crops. Key stakeholders are almond and stone fruit growers and organizations, pest control advisors, and regulatory agencies that are responsible for meeting public safety and health standards for California, as well as producers and managers of byproducts such as almond shells, grape pumice, and other organic materials which can be useful as substrates in the ASD process. Ultimately, the general public, and especially those near urban-agricultural interfaces, would be beneficiaries from this project due to its positive health and safety implications.

    Media Contact: Greg Browne, Principal Investigator, 530- 204-7281, or Christopher Bentley, Director of Information Staff, 301-504-1636

  • Improved Management of Alfalfa Weevil in California Alfalfa to Facilitate Water Quality Protection and Sustainability

    Pest management in alfalfa has increasingly depended on insecticides and over the last 20 years; alfalfa has gone from a system known for a strong IPM program to one that now is associated with having a large "footprint" and "concern" from regulatory agencies. Research efforts in alfalfa IPM have been limited in the last 20 years due to needs in competing crops, reductions in research/extension personnel, a perceived strength in alfalfa IPM, and the absence of research support from the industry, i.e., a commodity board. In recent years management of alfalfa weevil has been difficult requiring repeated applications, cowpea aphids have emerged as a "new pest", and from 2013-2015 blue alfalfa aphid reached unprecedented outbreak levels. Alfalfa weevils are generally the first serious insect pest of the year and management of it is costly and "primes" the field for subsequent IPM challenges.

    The goal of this project is to conduct research to start to bring IPM in alfalfa back into a "steady-state".

    The objectives are to: 1) establish a dynamic treatment threshold and an alfalfa weevil monitoring plan; 2) study alfalfa weevil biology/life history throughout the California Central Valley; 3) investigate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of reduced risk insecticides; 4) assess the incidence and timing of alfalfa weevil larval parasitism by the soil-dwelling entomopathogenic fungus Zoophthora phytonomi, and, 5) study the impacts of changes in alfalfa plant characteristics on susceptibility to alfalfa weevil larvae.

    This project will improve integrated pest management of alfalfa weevil pests by developing refined and usable treatment thresholds, a novel biological control method, and new bioinsecticides.

    Media Contact: Larry Godfrey, Principal Investigator, 530-752-0473, or Robin DeRieux, Senior Writer, Interim Director of Communications, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UC-Davis 530-752-8244;

  • Rapid detection and damage threshold analysis - decision making tools for nematode management in carrots

    Root knot nematodes decrease carrot market value and yield by deforming the growing root tip. To control these pests, carrots are routinely fumigated pre-planting with 1, 3-dicholoropropene and chloropicrin, however; the use of these chemicals is increasingly restricted in California and growers are experiencing more pressure to reduce fumigant applications whenever possible. As part of an integrated pest management strategy, growers need to know precisely the density of nematodes present and the relationship between nematode populations and crop damage.

    The long term project goal is to help growers make informed management decisions so that soil fumigants are only applied when and where needed. The overall objective of the proposed research is to develop quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays to detect and quantify root knot nematodes directly from DNA extracts of soil.

    The project will establish a diagnostic method for nematode quantification, compare molecular based nematode sampling with current, traditional sampling methods, and determine damage threshold densities for root knot nematode on carrot.

    The research will create a rapid diagnostic tool that is faster and more reliable than traditional testing, enabling the development of accurate damage thresholds. Testing the method in grower fields and preexisting field trails set up by cooperative extension collaborators will ensure its relevance and enhance adoption. By improving growers' capacity to detect nematodes, better pre-plant management decisions can be made.

    Media Contact: Amanda Hodson, Principal Investigator, 530-752-2434, or UCD Strategic Communications,, 530-752-1930

  • Further research on the potential for soil fumigant use reduction in CA using grafted tomatoes

    Tomatoes (fresh market and processing combined) are ranked the third highest crop in use of soil fumigants in California. Research has shown that grafted tomato plants which include multiple-pathogen resistant rootstocks can give high yields in pathogen-contaminated fields without fumigation. However, existing commercial rootstocks have only been tested with fresh market varieties that are not widely used in California, and research on processing tomato varieties as scions is currently lacking.

    The project goal is to continue field trials evaluating the performance of grafted tomatoes to better understand their potential for commercial California growers.

    To continue the progress towards commercialization of grafted tomatoes, the proposed project will conduct field trials of grafted tomatoes, including multi-pathogen-resistant rootstock varieties, under conventional California production conditions. In addition, outreach of results to tomato stakeholders through workshops will be conducted, a website will be developed, and peer-review papers will be published.

    At the conclusion of this project reliable data for California fresh market tomato variety performance will be in-hand, which will set the stage for research on grafting with California processing tomato varieties in the future. Tomato growers and other stakeholders will be informed on how grafted tomatoes may benefit their business, while potentially decreasing fumigant use due to the pathogen resistance of the grafted plants.

    Media Contact: Brenna Aegerter, Principal Investigator, 209-953-6114, or Pamela Kan-Rice, News and Information Outreach, 530-750-1221,

  • Suppression of plant-parasitic nematodes with digestates from anaerobic fermenters

    Many high-value crops are highly dependent on soil fumigants for suppression of soil-borne maladies, especially when plant resistance or tolerance are lacking. With discontinuation of methyl bromide, and increasing regulatory restrictions on the use of other fumigants, alternative soil-borne pest management options are urgently needed. Plant-parasitic nematodes play a crucial role as they occur in many soils, can persist on various hosts, and live even at roots deep in soil.

    The aim of this project is to combine disease suppression of nematode infections with soil health improvements in an integrated way. There are large amounts of by-product organic matter that require disposal, e.g., food wastes and animal manures. Efforts are underway to optimize anaerobic digesters that convert such matter into less bulky material while generating bio-energy when fermenting. Use of digestates of the biogas process as soil amendments has been demonstrated to suppress nematodes. This project will explore how common nematode suppression is in digestates readily available in California, and how use of the digestates can be implemented in California production systems.

    The project will be structured in several phases: 1) small-scale in vivo bioassays and in vitro systems that include test plants will be conducted; 2) amendments of the digestates will be made in field microplots infested with Meloidogyne incognita; 3) best performing materials will be entered into medium-plot sizes in commercial fields.

    The project will introduce an added value of waste products from anaerobic digesters that will greatly improve the utility of this material. The incentive to pay for transport of digestate with known nematode-suppressive capacities will be much greater than plant nutrient contributions alone. This potential marketability will de-concentrate the disposal of the material on agricultural fields close to the area of production. Such need will likely make short-distance transport feasible.

    Media Contact: Andreas Westphal, Principal Investigator, 559-646-6555, or Sean Nealon, Senior Public Information Officer,, 951-827-1287

For content questions, contact:
Jordan Weibel
1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015
Sacramento, CA 95812-4015

John Gerlach
1001 I Street, P.O. Box 4015
Sacramento, CA 95812-4015
Phone: (916) 445-3909