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CPHST Mission Laboratory

CPHST Mission Lab, Edinburg, Texas

Location: 22675 N. Moorefield Rd., Edinburg, TX 78451
Phone: (956) 205-7668
Fax: (956) 205-7680
Contact: Matt Ciomperlik  

The Mission Laboratory supports PPQ's programs by developing pest detection and management methods, mitigation strategies, and molecular diagnostic tools for invertebrate pests. The laboratory identifies, develops, and provides technology transfer of a wide range of scientific methods to PPQ and State departments of agriculture. In addition to these core functions, the laboratory cooperates with stakeholders and researchers to provide expertise to PPQ regarding epidemiology of plant diseases, remote sensing/geographic information systems, biological control, area-wide pest management, and sterile insect technology (SIT) support for the Mexican fruit fly eradication program.

In order to provide scientific expertise to PPQ regarding technological advances in molecular biology, the Mission facility has developed advanced strengths in the evaluation and application of DNA technologies and bioinformatics tools. This has enabled the adoption of cutting-edge methods that are used for DNA barcoding of pest species for confirmatory identifications, microsatellite analysis of pest populations to track high-risk pathways of invasive species, and screening of insect genomes for new molecular tools. These in-house techniques and skills are supporting PPQ programs through the development of identification tools and integrative projects to understand pest and vector distributions, dispersal, introduction pathways, and behaviors.

Recent Accomplishments

Asian Citrus Psyllid/ Citrus Greening

  • Developed maps, data, and analysis to support survey efforts and technical working groups in understanding the discovery of citrus greening disease in Texas. Continued support of the Texas citrus industry with maps and data on commercial citrus production in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
  • Released over 117,000 adult Tamarixia radiata parasitoids in 140 locations in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. At the request of Texas Citrus Mutual, releases targeted the area within a 5-mile radius of where citrus greening disease was detected in 2012. Establishment of T. radiata has been confirmed at 11 release sites so far. Parasitism levels have been measured at 10.4%, and estimated host-feeding damage is 64.9%.
  • Transferred in-field insectary mass rearing methods to University of Florida, University of California-Riverside, California Department of Agriculture, and PPQ Puerto Rico Work Unit personnel.
  • Conducted experiments that showed that lighted sticky traps would not be effective to detect Asian citrus psyllid in shipments of citrus entering the U. S. from Mexico.

Mexican Fruit Fly Sterile Insect Technique (SIT)

  • Conducted quality control testing of Guatemalan black pupa (male predominate) strain including mating compatibility and competitive testing against three Texas fly strains
  • Identified causal agent bacteria (Morganella spp.) for mortality to larval instars from eggs shipped from Guatemala, and developed sanitation methods to overcome the problem.
  • Conducted sampling of brush lands and harvested citrus groves to identify potential over-summering source locations for fertile fruit flies.
  • Evaluated and calibrated Mexican fruit fly aircraft and ground release machines.
  • Evaluated effectiveness of two-component lures and torula yeast used in trapping.
  • Constructed a Mexican fruit fly monitoring tool allowing fruit fly coordinators and decision makers to analyze effectiveness of sterile releases in the Mexfly program areas.
  • Organized a fruit fly meeting at the Mission Laboratory to discuss diagnostic capacities and needs of USDA and State programs. The meeting resulted in the formation of the Tephritidae Diagnostics Group and initiation of several collaborative efforts with USDA-ARS Hawaii, CDFA, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Molecular Diagnostics

  • Finalized development of a repository of DNA isolates representing symptomatic leaf material from quarantined, citrus groves in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The DNA isolates will be available upon request to U.S. researchers in support of research on the citrus greening.
  • Documented mitochondrial genetic diversity in/among populations of Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri). This work tests new hypotheses regarding recent gene flow into U.S. populations of D. citri. In addition, identified useful microsatellite markers and established multiplex reaction panels to evaluate these markers efficiently. This work is being used to evaluate D. citri genetic variation at a much reduced cost.
  • Completed description of Colosius confusus, a slug species originating from South America commonly intercepted at U.S. ports of entry, based on morphology and molecular evidence.
  • Completed a molecular survey of amber snails at the Los Indios, TX Plant Inspection Station (PIS). The study revealed that more than one species of Calcisuccinea is intercepted on commodities from Mexico. The hypothesis that Calcisuccinea luteola, a species native to Texas, was the only species being intercepted at the PIS was not accepted.
  • Completed an evaluation of Cuban slug, Veronicella cubensis, diversity and developed recommendations to enhance PPQ identification practices of this pest using molecular and morphological characters. 
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