- Fruits: berries (blueberries)
- Additional Plants: native plants
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
- Pest Management: biological control
- Production Systems: agroecosystems
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is an economically and ecologically important plant species in southern New Jersey. V. corymbosum is cultivated throughout Atlantic and Burlington counties in southern New Jersey in 7,100 acres with production valued at $62.5 million (NASS, 2010). It also thrives naturally in the understory of the Pinelands National Reserve and is ubiquitous in similar woody areas adjacent to commercial blueberry fields. The oriental beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Anomala orientalis) is a key blueberry pest that feeds on blueberry bush roots, which weakens and sometimes, kills the plant. On conventional New Jersey commercial blueberry farms, this pest problem is managed solely through soil applications of imidacloprid due to the sensitivity of the pinelands ecosystem and high water table of the coastal plain. To reduce the dependence on this treatment, other options are needed. Biocontrol using entomopathogenic nematodes is a viable option for suppressing oriental beetle. To build the foundation for the development of an augmentative, or if applicable, conservation biocontrol program using EPNs, the student will quantify endemic and established entomopathogenic nematode communities associated with wild and cultivated blueberry soil habitats.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: To assess entomopathogenic nematode communities in wild and cultivated blueberry. To achieve this objective, I will determine and describe differences in EPN species diversity
profiles between these habitats.