Harper Adams University: Expertise of Harper Adams academics at heart of important new vine weevil review

The expertise of Harper Adams academics on a globally important crop pest species has seen them write an in-depth review of its management for the leading entomology journal.

The piece by Dr Tom Pope, Reader in Entomology and Integrated Pest Management and Dr Joe Roberts, Lecturer in Entomology and Integrated Pest Management, is featured in the 2022 Annual Review of Entomology.

In their piece, the two academics examine the current management of vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) – which costs industry millions each year.

Dr Pope explained: “This journal publishes reviews that highlight significant developments in the field of entomology, including agricultural entomology and pest management. There is one volume published each year and it had been about 30 years since the last review looking at vine weevil was published.

“We had to convince the journal editors that the body of research which we would be talking about, including that which we had done here, would be of value to the scientific community.

“Each of these pieces is a concise summary of the state-of-the-art knowledge around a particular topic at the time of publication – and the journal also wants the authors of each review to provide their opinion of where we are at – that is, they want people who work in that particular area to share their thoughts on what we know but perhaps more importantly where further research is required.”

The review’s publishers read Dr Pope and Dr Roberts’ proposal, and asked them to write a piece for the 2022 publication, comprising a detailed, 6,000 word exploration of the current knowledge of the species and its management, as well as their thoughts for how it may be managed in the future.

As well as examining published work on the insect, their piece also drew upon both previous research at Harper Adams and current projects – including one which is being carried out with funding from and in collaboration with Teagasc, the national Irish organisation which provides integrated research, advisory and training services to the agriculture and food industry and rural communities.

Shortly after the publication of the piece, a further research project – which will be led by Dr Roberts – was also announced by the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) this week. The project, funded by BBSRC, will develop further monitoring tools for the insect.

Monitoring of vine weevil presents a number of challenges in its management, as adults are nocturnal, and larvae live in compost or soil where they damage the roots of crops, often undetected until it is too late.

Dr Pope said: “Our article examines some of the ways in which the vine weevil can be managed effectively and safely – and although we are talking about one species of insect here, researchers in the field of integrated pest management working on many other pest species are likely to be interested in reading about research like this.”

The piece draws upon both previous research – such as a project which Dr Pope was involved in where weevils were radio tagged to follow their movements – and upon the ongoing work being done at Harper Adams and elsewhere.

Dr Roberts added: “One of the things which both our article and our ongoing research examines is automated responses to this pest – which is needed as the adults are black, nocturnal, and hard to see!

“We are working on monitoring which is going to develop better monitoring tools equipped with artificial intelligence to refine their work.”

The full piece can be found in the Annual Review of Entomology 2022.

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