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
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.