Dr. Dakshina R. Seal
Associate Scientist — Entolomology and Nematology
My research and extension responsibilities focus on investigating key aspects of the most damaging insect pests of vegetable crops in South Florida. Primarily, I investigate the silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia argentifolii (Bellows & Perring), melon thrips (Thrips palmi Karny), chilli thrips (Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood, and cornsilk fly (Euxesta stigmatis Loews). Very little was known about silverleaf whitefly in Miami-Dade County agro-ecosystem before my research studies were initiated to develop an integrated pest management program. It is the most harmful insect on vegetable crops, in Miami-Dade County agro-ecosystem. Melon thrips and chilli thrips are newly established exotic insects in Florida. Melon thrips can completely defoliate a host of any proper control measures. Chilli thrips is considered as one of the thirteen most dangerous pest threats by the Florida Nursery, Landscape and Growers Association. Cornsilk fly is another damaging insect pest which causes 10-15% yield loss in corn even when adequate control measures are used. I take a leadership role in entomological studies in the tropical/subtropical region of South Florida although I collaborate with many state faculty and county agents in various aspects of this work. Secondly, I conduct research and provide educational information on pepper weevil (Anthonomous eugeniiCano), diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella (l.)), sweetpotato weevil (Cylas formicarilus (Fabrilcuius)), and leafminer, Liriomyza trifoli (Burgess)).
To address these insect problems, I conduct research to identify the necessary components of integrated pest management (IPM) programs to control them. These include:
a) Identify the insect causing plant damage,
b) Study the biology and behaviorf of the insect (development, oviposition, reproduction, dialy activity patterns, etc.)
c) Target management tools that aim at controlling the insect pest at the most vulnerable state (biocontrol agent, chemicals, cultural practices, etc.), and other tools using a balance to provide growers with specific and effective IPM programs.
Once I generate information on these IPM practices, I use it in my extension program for: a) growers, b) crop consultants. c) scouts, d) insecticide dealers. I publish my extension findings as EDIS reports, nonrefereed articles, handouts, newsletters, bulletins to reach the above mentioned clientele. For rapid communication of time-sensitive information. I organize growers' field days, make telephone calls and visit farms where insect problems are occuring. In addition, I closely cooperate with Eugene McAvoy (County Extension Director and Extension Agent IV, Hendry County; and Mary Lamberts (Extension Agent IV, Miami-Dade County) to send information through their newsletters. I am an active member of Miami-Dade Vegetable Advisory Committee and Miami-Dade Agri-Council, which gives me a great opportunity to communicate with a wide range of clientele.