UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the emergence of the spotted lanternfly continues to threaten portions of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, two researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences who are studying the invasive insects joined colleagues from more than 20 universities on Capitol Hill today (June 6) to show members of Congress and their staffs the importance of funding agricultural research.
Julie Urban, an associate research professor in the Department of Entomology at Penn State, and Erica Smyers, a doctoral candidate in entomology advised by Urban, presented “The Spotted Lanternfly: A New Pest, Grave Risks, and Potential Avenues for Control,” an exhibit highlighting research taking place at Penn State to help stop the spotted lanternfly’s spread and save agricultural crops from damage.
Native to China, India, Japan and Vietnam, the spotted lanternfly was found for the first time in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in September 2014. Officials are worried about the threat the spotted lanternfly poses to Pennsylvania agriculture, including the grape, tree-fruit, hardwood and nursery industries, which collectively are worth nearly $18 billion to the state's economy. Homeowners also could sustain damage to high-value ornamentals in their landscape.
As Congress considers the Farm Bill and agricultural appropriations, Urban and Smyers were joined in Washington, D.C., by agricultural researchers from a variety of disciplines who updated Congress on current challenges and emerging threats in agriculture, food and natural resources. More than 36 exhibits from university researchers, scientific professional societies, and U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies demonstrated how USDA funding helps to bolster research and innovation addressing these challenges. Urban and Smyers presented on behalf of the Entomological Society of America.
The exhibition was hosted by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Coalition, National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, and Supporters of Agricultural Research.
“Research and education in food, agriculture and natural resource issues has become more critical in solving many societal challenges,” said Ian Maw, APLU vice president of food, agriculture and natural resources. “If we want to decrease obesity and malnutrition; control invasive species; improve the vitality of our rural communities; and provide clean water, healthy forests, abundant fish and wildlife, and sustainable energy, then the U.S. needs to invest far more in the agricultural research, education and Extension system.”