AgriLife Research associate recognized for integrated pest management work

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608,
Contact: Jacob Price, 806-677-5600,

AMARILLO – Texas A&M AgriLife Research’s Jacob Price has been awarded the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center’s new “Friends of Southern IPM Graduate Student Award.”

Jacob Price,  a senior research associate with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Amarillo, works in the field on a wheat curl mite study. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Jacob Price, a senior research associate with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Amarillo, works in the field on a wheat curl mite study. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)

The award program recognizes graduate students with extraordinary potential to contribute to the development and implementation of research, Extension or implementation of integrated pest management in the Southern Region of the U.S., according to the guidelines.

Price, a senior research associate in Amarillo and diagnostician for the Great Plains Diagnostic Network, was the sole honoree in the doctorate category. He is a doctoral student at Texas Tech University in the plant and soil sciences department and serves part time as an instructor in the biological sciences department at Amarillo College.

The Southern Region IPM Center is one of four regional centers funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Integrated Research, Education and Extension Competitive Grants Program – Integrated Pest Management.

The Southern Region IPM Center covers Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and the Virgin Islands.

“Jacob is dedicated to science and is an exceptionally focused, hardworking student,” Dr. Richard Zartman, Texas Tech Leidigh Professor of soil physics and department chair, said in his letter of nomination. “He also is innovative and has conducted research that has significantly contributed to IPM in wheat.”

Price is responsible for designing and conducting experimental research involving wheat streak mosaic virus and Triticum mosaic virus, which are two of the main viruses affecting wheat production throughout the Great Plains, according to Dr. Charlie Rush, AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo and Price’s supervisor.

Rush said Price’s main focus is evaluation of population dynamics of the wheat curl mite, which vectors both viruses, and evaluating disease distribution for development of management strategies to reduce disease incidence and severity.

“When Jacob first began working on mite-vectored virus diseases, not enough was known about vector ecology/epidemiology to make IPM recommendations,” Zartman said. “Jacob initiated a project to
evaluate the impact of drought and deficit irrigation on mite populations and disease development.

“Using cutting-edge molecular techniques to quantify virus titer in infected plants, and a variety of deficit irrigation regimes and neutron probe technology to measure soil moisture and the impact of deficit irrigation on crop performance, Jacob was able to demonstrate that deficit irrigation did not affect virus titer or disease severity. He, however, discovered that disease not only reduced grain and forage yields, but also root growth and function, and ultimately crop water-use efficiency.”

Both Rush and Zartman said Price serves as the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service contact for wheat viral diseases and presents research and diagnostic findings at producer meetings. His primary message to producers is that applying fertilizers and irrigation to severely diseased wheat constitutes a waste of time, energy, money and natural resources.

In his most recent studies, Price has evaluated some newly released cultivars with genetic resistance to wheat streak mosaic. The resistance in these lines is temperature sensitive and ineffective above 75 degrees. Because most wheat in Texas is planted in early September for winter grazing and later harvested for grain, there was a question whether infected wheat cultivars with resistance but planted early would recover as temperatures cooled later in the fall.

Price determined these cultivars, once infected, did not recover, even at temperatures below 75 degrees.  Additionally, he determined TAM 112, a regionally adapted cultivar with no identified genetic resistance to wheat streak mosaic, exhibited strong resistance to the wheat curl mite vector.

This is significant because resistance to the vector will aid in reducing losses to all mite-vectored virus diseases, not just wheat streak mosaic, Zartman said. Price is now working along with the wheat genetics program to identify genetic markers associated with this resistance.


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