Two interagency research studies will soon be conducted to analyze the movement and mitigation of invasive pests that are negatively affecting crops in North America.

The IR-4 project’s environmental horticulture program enables studies funded by the USDA Animal and Phytosanitary Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine Program to mitigate the negative effects of downy mildew and boxwood moths.

These studies, totaling $ 657,700, are made possible by funding for invasive species management in the 2018 Farm Bill. Both projects will start in late spring or early summer 2021.

Downy mildew study

The study on downy mildew aims to improve the detection of downy mildew on basil, impatiens and pumpkins such as cucumber, melon and gourd. Downy mildew destroys these plants and can lead to significant crop losses.

Researchers will develop polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to improve diagnostic tests and explore new ways to limit damage for this pest. This includes screening new varieties that have been bred to be resistant to downy mildew in multiple locations across the country and testing the use of red light to disrupt the pathogen’s testing life cycle. The study will lead to refined management recommendations for producers tailored to their local geographic conditions.

This multi-agency project, led by the IR-4 project at Rutgers University, is a collaboration between researchers from Rutgers University, Cornell University, Michigan State University, and North Carolina State University, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service .

Box Tree Moth Study

The aim of the study on boxwood moths is to examine plant protection instruments for short-term eradication and long-term control of the pest. Boxwood moth larvae cause severe defoliation of boxwood bushes, which in the course of repeated infestation has led to mortality. The pest has also been reported to affect and damage other common landscape plants, including holly and euonymus.

Various methods are analyzed including insecticides, softer products, sterile insect technology and improved trapping. The study will also lead to the development of recommendations and visual guides for further management of the boxwood moth.

The boxwood moth was first reported in North America in 2018 when it was found in Canada. Researchers believe it is spreading. As part of this study, a network will be set up to investigate, identify and track the arrival of this pest in the United States

This multi-part project is led by a team of scientists from the USDA and Rutgers University IR-4 project with staff from Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and North Carolina State University and agricultural departments in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee in close collaboration with the American Public Garden Association.


Founded in 1963, the mission of the IR-4 project is to facilitate government approval of sustainable pest control technologies for specialty crops and specialty applications to promote public wellbeing. All author stories can be found here.