John Esslinger

John Esslinger, a Bloomsburg-based Penn State College of Agricultural Science Extention educator told a joint breakfast meeting of two area chambers of commerce that pheromones, or scents that trigger reproductive processes in pests, can be used to control breeding and their potential threat to agriculture.

LEWISBURG — The subtle aroma that attracts men to women is likely a form of a pheromone, similar in principle to substances that attract mates across the animal kingdom. However, those fertile mates sometimes include pests that can breed and damage agricultural crops.

John Esslinger, a Bloomsburg-based Penn State College of Agricultural Science Extention educator demonstrated a current strategy to prevent pests from attacking sweet corn. He handed out samples of a fall armyworm pheromone to a breakfast meeting of the Central Pennsylvania and the Greater Susquehanna Valley chambers of commerce. The foil packets of the pheromone were opened and sniffed by meeting attendees.

Esslinger expressed relief when none of the persons on hand at the meeting found the scents especially alluring, and clarified their use.

“I have traps on six farms and on those farms we are monitoring what insects are there,” he said,

He said pheromone use can be extended to protection of orchards, by filling the who grove with a scent which is barely noticeable to humans, but a source of arousal for insects

“The male moth uses its scent to find the female,” he said. “When the whole orchard has that scent of the female, they can’t find each other, so no mating goes on at all.”

Esslinger said research into pesticide resistance among pests, sustainable and organic food production, local produce safety and maintenance of pollinators such as honeybees are also of interest to the extention. Likewise, areas of expertise also include how local growers can produce more while being pressured by government and environmental impact mandates.

Restoration of pollinators, he said, is being conducted among pumpkin growers in Pennsylvania as it is among almond growers in California and watermelon growers in Florida.

Esslinger noted that different flowering plants that feed the pollinators are being planted before pumpkins start to grow.

“That draws the pollinators in,” Esslinger said of the effort to strengthen wild and honeybees.

The Mifflinburg office of the Penn State Extention can be reached at 570-966-8194.

Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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