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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service administrator, Ed Knipling, and other agency experts met in late October with concerned representatives from the apple and other agricultural industries to address the impact of a rapidly emerging orchard pest: the Brown Marmorated stinkbug.

The discussion was organized by the U.S. Apple Association and hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Originating in Asia in the late 1990s, the insect made a dramatic appearance during the 2010 U.S. harvest season, wreaking significant damage and losses in as many as 30 states. Thus far, the stinkbug has proven difficult to control and capable of affecting a broad spectrum of agriculture products, from apples and peaches to tomatoes, peppers and corn.

USDA researchers at the meeting presented alarming facts:

• The stinkbug is extremely mobile, with the adult populations demonstrating rapid movement from crop to crop in mere hours.

• It has shown itself to be widely adaptable in the United States, with economically significant damage recorded in states from north to south.

• It feeds on (and causes damage to) an exceptional number of crops.

• It has an apparent resistance to the most commonly used pesticides, and pesticides must directly contact the insect (no residual effectiveness).

• The fact that feeding and damage occur from all five growth stages of the insect (instars) in addition to the damage caused by adults greatly magnifies its destructive potential.

Mark Seetin, USApple’s director of industry and regulatory affairs, opened the conference with a brief overview of how the stinkbug has affected U.S. apple growers since early harvest began in mid-August.

"This stinkbug is one of the worst pests to ever appear in America’s apple orchards and other agricultural segments," Mr. Seetin said in an Oct. 28 press release. “The immense crop devastation combined with the bug’s remarkable resilience could present a significant challenge for years to come.”

USDA researcher Tracy Leskey elaborated on stinkbug characteristics and the potential extent of the threat. She presented the latest results of research being conducted to determine which existing pesticides are most effective in combating the insect.

Mr. Knipling explained the steps USDA is taking to address the situation and assured discussion participants that the agency is committed to finding a solution to the stinkbug problem.

In addition to Ms. Leskey and Mr. Knipling, other experts participating in the session included USDA-ARS’s Kevin Hackett and Michael Glenn; and Sheryl Kunickis and Kent Smith from USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy.

In September, the House of Representatives’ Agriculture Committee held a briefing on the stinkbug for congressional staff and members. USApple is urging policymakers in Congress and at the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to act quickly, including providing adequate funding for an expanded emergency research effort on the stinkbug threat.