UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A $7.3 million grant awarded to Penn State will support an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional team of researchers as they conduct research and develop strategies to combat the spotted lanternfly.
The grant, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will be complemented by more than $5 million in matching investments from growers and landowners who agreed to participate in this work, many of whom are currently working with researchers on spotted lanternfly.
“I am extremely grateful to the USDA for this funding as well as the growers and landowners who pledged to allow us use of their farms for this project,” said project lead Julie Urban, associate professor of entomology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Our partnerships with them and other impacted stakeholders are key to arriving at strategies for sustainable, long-term management of this pest.”
Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly — now in 14 Pennsylvania counties and reported in surrounding states including New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland — feeds on sap, weakening plants and leaving behind a sugary excrement called honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold. This mold further harms the plant, while attracting other insects and creating a mess that can render outdoor areas unusable.
The pest threatens Pennsylvania's grape, tree fruit, hardwood and nursery industries, which collectively are worth about $18 billion to the state's economy.
The grant will support a four-year initiative aimed at achieving several goals, among them:
— To quantify the insect’s impact on at-risk specialty crops and immediately develop management tactics to reduce the damage in areas where spotted lanternfly is established.
— To perform essential fundamental research on the pest’s basic biology, ecology and behavior, and to develop biological control tactics contributing to long-term sustainable solutions.
— To deliver immediate management solutions to specialty-crop stakeholders and the public through the extension networks of the partnering land-grant universities, USDA agencies and the Northeastern IPM Center.
In addition, the funding will support training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students and early-career postdoctoral scientists, thereby preparing the next generation of researchers and extension educators who will lead work on future invasive species.
The project will draw on the expertise of 37 collaborating researchers and extension educators from Penn State, the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Virginia Tech, the University of Delaware, the University of Rhode Island, Temple University, Rutgers University, Cornell University and the Northeastern IPM Center.
To learn more about the spotted lanternfly, the state-imposed quarantine in Pennsylvania, management techniques and how to report a sighting, visit the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.