My research program focuses on understanding the biology and ecology of insects that attack and/or spread viruses to vegetable crops as well as insects that are beneficial to these crops, such as pollinators. Major projects have included describing spatial and temporal patterns of insect dispersal and the epidemiology of insect-transmitted viruses in vegetable cropping systems. Information generated from this research has advanced our knowledge about predicting pest outbreaks, developing insecticide resistance management strategies, mitigating the spread of insect-transmitted viruses and the impact of supplementing vegetable crops with managed colonies of bees. Information generated from my research program is conveyed to the vegetable industry at producer-focused meetings, publications and via the web.
The goal of my research program is to provide regional, national and international leadership on biological and ecological studies of insects that impact vegetable crops and to utilize this scholarly information for developing or refining innovative pest management and crop production strategies that will benefit the user, environment and the consumer. I have two programmatic foci. The first is to produce scholarly contributions in insect ecology as it pertains to: a) pests that attack and transmit viruses to vegetable crops and b) beneficial insects that provide ecological services that improve crop production. The second focus is to make significant advancements in vegetable crop production by developing: a) management strategies for vegetable insect pests and the viruses they transmit to vegetable crops and b) practices that enhance ecological services provided by beneficial insects, especially bees. Both foci are based on the principles of landscape ecology, especially as it pertains to the diverse agricultural ecosystems typical of the Northeast.
Outreach and Extension Focus
Extension: The purpose of my extension program is to educate growers, extension educators and other stakeholders involved in the vegetable crop industry about management strategies for vegetable insect pests that improve the efficiency of management inputs and safety to the user and environment. I also deliver information about how to improve crop performance using bees in cucurbit crops. Delivery of information is a dynamic process that involves several specific activities such as (1) face-to-face contacts with the vegetable industry at meetings, (2) writing vegetable pest management and crop improvement articles for newsletters and trade magazines, (3) providing pest management information on the Cornell Vegetable website, (4) updating annually the CCE Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Vegetable Production, (5) participating in the annual CCE In-Service Training session, and (6) responding to questions from the vegetable industry through visits on farm, over the phone or via email. A primary indicator used to evaluate the impact of my extension program is the number of positive written and verbal comments I receive from audiences that attend my formal and informal extension presentations. Consequently, I am invited annually to speak at several conferences and meetings within New York as well as similar meetings throughout the US and Canada. Another important measure of success is that University extension colleagues from Cornell and elsewhere consider me as a resource for updating them on advancements in vegetable insect pest management.
Outreach: Educating youth about science is particularly important given the apparent erosion in interest and knowledge about science in the US. Several times each year I talk about general entomology to elementary classes from the Geneva City School District and other groups such as cub scouts and 4-H. Additionally, I have participated in events for the public in Ontario County that teach the public about Entomology and the types of research conducted at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.
I co-instruct the course PLPA 4190/ENTOM 4190, Agricultural Application of Plant Health Concepts: Diseases and Pests of New York Crops. 2 credits. Fall 2005 – 2008; 2010-present. I currently co-instruct this course with Dr.David Gadoury. Details about the course and the syllabus are described further at http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/pp/pp419/.
I also give guest lectures in Entomology 7670 and Horticulture 3500, which are undergraduate/graduate level courses. My lecture focuses on principles in vegetable entomology and how this information can be used to better manage arthropod pests of vegetables.
Awards and Honors
- Excellence in Integrated Pest Management Award (2012) New York State IPM Program
- Perez, R. M., Nault, B. A., & Poveda, K. Contrasting effects of landscape composition on crop yield mediated by specialist herbivores. Ecological Applications.
- Leach, A., Reiners, S., Fuchs, M., & Nault, B. A. (2017). Evaluating integrated pest management tactics for onion thrips and pathogens they transmit to onion. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 250:89-101.
- Leach, A., Fuchs, M., Harding, R., Schmidt-jeffris, R., & Nault, B. A. Importance of transplanted onions contributing to late-season iris yellow spot virus epidemics in New York. Plant Disease.
- Schmidt-Jeffris, R. A., & Nault, B. A. (2017). Residual activity of diamide insecticides for Ostrinia nubilalis control in processing snap bean. Crop Protection. 98:116-123.
- Smith, E. A., Shields, E. J., & Nault, B. A. (2017). Onion thrips colonization of onion fields bordering crop and non-crop habitats in muck cropping systems. Journal of Applied Entomology. 141:574-582.
- Schmidt-Jeffris, R., & Nault, B. A. (2016). Anthranilic diamide insecticides delivered via multiple approaches to control vegetable pests: A case study in snap bean. Journal of Economic Entomology. 109:2479-2488.
- Jacobson, A., Nault, B. A., Vargo, E., & Kennedy, G. (2016). Restricted gene flow among lineages of Thrips tabaci supports genetic and reproductive divergence among cryptic species groups. PLOS One.
- Huseth, A. S., Groves, R. L., Chapman, S., & Nault, B. A. (2015). Evaluation of diamide insecticides co-applied with other agrochemicals at various times to manage Ostrinia nubilalis in processing snap bean. Pest Management Science. 71:1649-1656.
- Smith, E. A., Fuchs, M. F., Shields, E. J., & Nault, B. A. (2015). Long-distance dispersal potential for onion thrips (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) and Iris yellow spot virus (Bunyaviridae: Tospovirus) in an onion ecosystem. Environmental Entomology. 44:921-930.
- Gill, H., Garg, H., Gill, A. K., Gillett-Kaufman, J. L., & Nault, B. A. (2015). Onion thrips (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) biology, ecology, and management in onion production systems. Journal of Integrated Pest Management. 6:6.