Georgian University Students Participate in Scientific Research to Fight Against Invasive Pests

Georgian students examine pest traps.

Georgian university students and interns working alongside scientists and program staff from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently presented research findings on key pest populations to representatives from USAID and the Georgia’s National Food Agency (NFA). The young researchers shared their findings on December 7, 2020, during the Scientific Students’ Conference held by the USAID Agriculture Program implemented in Georgia by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).

The students who represented Tbilisi State University, Batumi State University, Agriculture University of Georgia and Kutaisi State University — studied pests such as the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug (BMSB), Tuta absoluta (tomato moth), Drozophila Suzukii, and the Japanese Beatle. They conducted their research using PHEROCON Traps and PHEROCON Broad Spectrum Lures provided by Trécé, Inc. — a leading American manufacturer of pheromone-based insect monitoring and control systems. The USAID-funded trials are part of a large-scale project which aims to establish an effective phytosanitary system in the country in line with modern international standards.

USAID has worked in Georgia since 2017 to reduce invasive pests’ impact on the country’s crops and economy. In collaboration with the NFA and Trécé, Inc., CNFA’s USAID Agriculture Program and USAID Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project have supported scientific research to establish effective pest-control and monitoring systems in order to build resilience in Georgia’s agriculture sector.

Students from Georgian universities have long played an important role in the implementation of USAID’s pest management research by participating as part of scientific teams to conduct field trials, collect and analyze data, present findings, and participate in round table discussions.

Georgian student inspects pest trap.
Georgian student inspects pest trap.
Georgian student inspects pest trap.

From 2017 to 2020, student-supported research findings were successfully disseminated to Georgian farmers by the NFA and are currently being used on fields across the country. The findings have also been presented to a wide audience of stakeholders at other national and international events, including the 2018 international conference BMSB — Global Challenge; a series of BMSB workshops in 2019; and the 2020 international seminar Stink bugs: A Potential Threat for Turkish and Mediterranean Countries’ Agriculture.

In addition to providing pertinent pest-control information to farmers and stakeholders, the students’ research outcomes contributed to their academic advancement. Through the integrated pest management (IPM) research, Tbilisi State University students prepared and successfully defended three bachelor and one master theses, and two Batumi State University students are currently in the process of preparing bachelor theses. As a result of these efforts, one scientific paper was published in 2018 and preparation of another is under way.

The Scientific Students’ Conference also has served as platform to further the partnership between USAID-funded projects, the NFA, educational institutions, and the private sector, furthering the development of applied IPM research. The involvement of local universities in this joint field of research also continues to build the capacity of local youth scientists and facilitate linkages with international research institutions. Together these processes pave the way for the sustainable improvement of national detection and exclusion systems for high-risk pests in Georgia.

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