Team Including UC Riverside Entomologist Honored for Research Leading to Healthier Potato Chips

John Trumble will be recognized by the Entomological Foundation in November

Photo shows UC Riverside's John Trumble.

John Trumble is a distinguished professor of entomology at UC Riverside. Photo courtesy of J. Trumble, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A research team that includes John Trumble, a distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, has won the Integrated Pest Management Team Award from the Entomological Foundation, a national organization that aims to educate young people about science through insects.

The foundation recognized the research team, named the Zebra Chip Research Team, for its research and extension efforts that have had a dramatic effect on the potato industry.

Sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, the award “recognizes the successful efforts of a small collaborative work team approach to pest control.”  Trumble and the other members of the team will receive the award — an inscribed statue — on Nov. 12 in Knoxville, Tenn., during the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America.

By the time the team formed in 2008, a new pathogen had devastated the potato industry by spreading zebra chip disease, causing losses in the millions of dollars annually.

Photo shows a healthy potato chip and a diseased one.

Potato chips from a healthy (top) and infected tuber. Photo credit: Trumble Lab, UC Riverside.

“Indeed, many growers were on the verge of leaving the industry entirely,” Trumble said.  “When pesticide use in the fields increased dramatically, with unsatisfactory results, more economic losses followed.”

The Zebra Chip Research Team developed new techniques to identify the pathogen, allowing researchers to document local, regional, and national movements of the potato psyllid (Bactericera cockerelli) spreading zebra chip disease. The researchers determined both within-plant and within-field movements of the psyllid and the zebra chip pathogen, and developed special sampling programs that enabled potato growers to choose the level of risk they were willing to accept.

The sampling programs accurately determined the efficacy of pesticides and the benefit of available biological control agents. They also documented a variety of alternatives to unsustainable pesticide use.  Through websites, effective outreach practices, and grower and scientific meetings, the Zebra Chip Research Team promoted a sustainable integrated program that today allows the industry to continue to produce potatoes while making a profit and minimizing potential negative effects for the environment.

“I am pleased that we were given this honor by the Entomological Foundation, but it is even more rewarding to know that our research and extension efforts are making a real difference for the sustainability of potato production in the USA,” Trumble said.

He was joined in the research by the following Zebra Chip Research Team members: Charlie Rush, an epidemiologist at Texas A&M University; Neil Gudmestad, a plant pathologist at North Dakota State University; Gerhard Bester of Frito Lay; Casey Butler of Syngenta Crop Protection; Joe Munyaneza, an entomologist, and Jim Crosslin, a plant pathologist, at USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Yakima, Wash.; Jon Goolsby, an entomologist at USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Edinburgh, Texas.; Don Henne, a horticultural scientist at Texas Agrilife Research, Weslaco; and Fekede Workneh, a plant pathologist at Texas Agrilife Research, Bushland.

Butler is a former UC Riverside student in Trumble’s lab.

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