Beyond Economic Thresholds: Incorporating Proactive Pest Management Strategies in Alfalfa Pest Management Programs for Potato Leafhopper

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2013: $8,509.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Carrie Laboski
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Faculty Advisor:
Dan Undersander
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Eileen Cullen
UW-Madison Dept. of Entomology


  • Agronomic: general hay and forage crops, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: intercropping, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: decision support system
  • Pest Management: chemical control, cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    This graduate research project is entitled: Beyond Economic Thresholds: Incorporating Proactive Pest Management Strategies in Alfalfa Pest Management Programs for Potato Leafhopper. The research examines a comprehensive integrated pest management (IPM) system for the potato leafhopper (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) in alfalfa including; host plant resistance, grass intercrops, soil fertility management, and economic thresholds. Outcomes of this project aim to maintain alfalfa yield and forage quality, improve farmer profitability, and strengthen the IPM paradigm for potato leafhopper in alfalfa – combining economic and environmental benefits of scouting-based insecticide treatment as needed and non-chemical controls with potential to suppress leafhopper populations from reaching economic threshold levels. Wisconsin’s dairy economy depends on large quantities of high quality alfalfa. Potato leafhopper is the most economically damaging alfalfa pest in the North Central region of the United States, reducing yield, stand longevity and quality. Recent price increases in alfalfa have raised farmer interest in spraying insecticides for this pest at lower densities, but this is not advisable until research is completed on the relationship between pest pressure and yield and quality loss. By studying leafhopper response to the suite of pest suppression tactics within the context of an economic threshold model, and determining alfalfa yield and quality response in multi-site and multi-year research trials, we will give farmers the flexibility and knowledge to make informed decisions that optimize input costs and decrease risk and environmental impact of pest management approaches. Evaluation of farmer knowledge gain of enhanced IPM recommendations will be determined through extension meetings and Turning Point Technology which assesses real time farmer or consultant feed back at meetings.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Results of this research will be disseminated through extension publications, UW-Extension pest management update (PMU) meetings, and at the Wisconsin Crop Management Conference. These meetings reach approximately 2,000 participants annually comprised of growers, crop consultants and county Extension agents. Short term outcomes include; awareness of various pest management strategies and their efficacy; change in perception of insecticide sprays below established economic thresholds for potato leafhopper in alfalfa; knowledge of updated economic threshold parameters; and awareness of how to integrate a diversity of pest management tactics. These short-term outcomes have the potential to influence alfalfa grower decision-making processes. Farmers will have new information to utilize host plant resistance and/or forage grass intercrops to manage potato leafhopper. They will better understand how manure application at appropriate times and rates to their alfalfa stand may or may not impact potato leafhopper populations. If these outcomes are met, insecticide treatment decisions can be made within a broader IPM context potentially reducing risk of potato leafhopper damage and lessening the perceived need to treat below established thresholds during periods of high forage market value. These results will support an IPM system balance between crop protection, farmer profitability and quality of life, and environmental quality. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.