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Penn State Receives $7.3 Million Research Grant to Combat Spotted Lanternfly

by on October 08, 2019 12:45 PM

Pennsylvania agricultural industries are facing a mounting threat from the spread of the spotted lanternfly, and Penn State a received $7.3 million federal grant to lead a four-year, multi-institutional research effort aimed at combating the invasive pest.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture will be complemented by by more than $5 million in matching support from growers and landowners.

“I am extremely grateful to the USDA for this funding as well as the growers and landowners who pledged to allow us use of their farms for this project,” project lead Julie Urban, associate professor of entomology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, said in a news release. “Our partnerships with them and other impacted stakeholders are key to arriving at strategies for sustainable, long-term management of this pest.”

Penn State researchers have already been working closely with the commonwealth and other institutions to stop the spread of the spotted lanternfly. Native to Asia, the bug has been confirmed in 14 southeastern Pennsylvania counties as well as in New Jersey and Maryland.

The spotted lanternfly is a threat to the state's grape, tree fruit, hardwood and nursery industries, which together comprise about $18 billion of Pennsylvania's economy. 

The pest "feeds on sap, weakening plants and leaving behind a sugary excrement called honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold. This mold further harms the plant, while attracting other insects and creating a mess that can render outdoor areas unusable," according to a news release.

The new project will bring together 37 researchers and extension educators from Penn State, Virginia Tech, the University of Delaware, the University of Rhode Island, Temple University, Rutgers University, Cornell University and the Northeastern Integrated Pest Management Center.

Among its goals are:

- To quantify the spotted lanternfly's impact on at-risk crops and immediately identify management practices to reduce damage where it has already been established.

- To conduct fundamental research on the spotted lanternfly's biology and behavior and to develop biological control tactics contributing to long-term solutions

- To provide immediate management solutions through extension networks, USDA and the Northeastern IPM Center.

Funding is also provided for training of graduate and undergraduate students to prepare the next generation of researchers and educators.

In an effort to slow or stop the spread, Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture has established a quarantine zone regulating the movement of plants, plant-based materials and outdoor household items in the 14 counties where spotted lanternfly colonies have been confirmed. Those are:  Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Schuylkill.

Since last year, Penn State has been asking for visitors traveling from the eastern part of the state to University Park, including for football games, to check vehicles and items to make sure they are not transporting spotted lanternflies or their eggs. Penn State Extension offers a checklist of what to look for and where here.

For more about the spotted lanternfly, its impacts, management and Penn State research, visit

Sightings can be reported here.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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