An interview with Dr. Tolulope Morawo, IRREC’s Newest Research Scientist

1. What experience or experiences led you to pursue a career in entomology?
There were a couple of experiences that got me interested in entomology, but I will share the most important one with you. It all started when I met Dr. Henry Fadamiro during one of his seminars as a visiting professor at my undergraduate university in Nigeria. I listened to his presentation. Dr. Fadamiro told us how phorid parasitic flies find their fire ant hosts, parasitize them, and decapitate them upon emergence. It was the first time I heard about parasitoids; I could not contain my fascination. The desire to know more about the life history and strategies of parasitoids drew me to the field of entomology.

2. Growing up in Nigeria, were you involved in agriculture? If so, what did you notice about agriculture? Were you interested in entomology at a young age?
I do not think I liked bugs at a young age, let alone having an interest in studying them at the time. Like many other kids, I experienced insect bites and stings, and that formed my opinion of insects in general. It was much later when I realized that we have the “good” insects, too – beneficial insects. I was involved in agriculture on a very small scale in Nigeria. My mother was a veterinary technician, and my father worked with a book publishing company, but my parents were also interested in agriculture. Growing up, my father took my siblings and me to his farm on the weekends. We grew corn, cassava, and oil palm. Corn and cassava are staple crops in Nigeria, but our family did not produce enough to make it a significant source of income at the time. It was more of a family activity for us. In Nigeria, a substantial amount of farm produce is lost to pest infestation in the field and in storage. Chemical control is the most common pest management tactic, but there are serious concerns about misuse and overuse, leading to widespread environmental issues and pesticide resistance. More recently, Nigeria faced a serious infestation problem with the tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta. The infestation nearly crippled the supply of fresh tomatoes from the northern growing areas to the other parts of the country. The tomato leaf miner has not yet been reported in North America, but it is quickly spreading throughout the world. Biological control used as a component of integrated pest management is one of the best options to manage such invasive pests.

3. Your work is unique and focused on chemical ecology? How did you get involved in this kind of science please? Have you conducted chemical ecology work that has benefited crop producers?
Chemical ecology integrates chemistry and biology to understand the chemical communication among organisms in the ecosystem. This area of study can help us answer the following questions: how do pest insects select and locate their favorite host plants? How do plants respond to attack by insects? How do natural enemies find their prey/hosts? In addition, chemical ecologists also study the physiological and molecular bases of chemical interactions among organisms. As I previously stated, my desire to know more about the ecology of parasitoids drew me to entomology as an undergraduate student. I later joined Dr. Fadamiro’s program at Auburn University for my graduate study. I worked on two braconid parasitoids, Microplitis croceipes, and Cotesia marginiventris. I focused my research on understanding the chemical communication among plants, pest insects, and parasitoids. Most of my studies involved the identification of host-related volatiles (odorants) used by the two braconid parasitoids to locate the tobacco budworm Heliothis virescens on cotton plants. Naturally occurring chemicals that mediate intra- and interspecific communication are called semiochemicals. In addition to plant volatiles, my studies have identified key compounds emitted by cotton-fed tobacco budworm that mediates attraction of a braconid parasitoid species. These studies have potential practical applications in the formulation of attractants to recruit natural enemies of pest insects in the field. Studies from other research groups have demonstrated that compounds such as methyl jasmonate and the related cis-jasmone can prime indirect defensive response in crops. The principles of trap cropping, push-pull system, and mass trapping/mating disruption using pheromones, partly rely on semiochemicals. Chemical ecology is one of many tools that can be used to understand host selection and ecological interactions of invasive arthropods and biological control agents. That makes it a useful tool both in classical and conservation biological control.

4. What excites you the most about your work?

I am very excited to lead the invasive arthropod biological control program at UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center, or IRREC. One of the advantages of working at a research center is that it creates a quick opportunity to collaborate across disciplines to solve practical problems affecting stakeholders. The state of Florida currently has several invasive insects and mites that cause serious agricultural losses and disrupts the ecosystem in natural areas. The Asian citrus psyllid is an example of an invasive insect that is causing severe agricultural losses because it transmits the citrus greening disease. Biological control is one of the best strategies for dealing with new invasive species. In classical biological control, natural enemies are imported from the native range of the invasive species; the agents are screened in quarantine before they can be cleared for release. The Morawo Biocontrol Lab will be located at IRREC’s Hayslip Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory (BCRCL) in Ft. Pierce, FL. The BCRCL is a USDA-certified facility with both quarantine and non-quarantine laboratories for investigating natural enemy-prey/host interactions. I am excited about doing research in the containment laboratory. The BCRL currently has programs for the biological control of invasive weeds and arthropods. Research scientists at the University of Florida have been at the forefront of combating the problem of invasive species. Unfortunately, there will be new invasive arthropods that will find their way into Florida. With collaboration within and across the state, we are in a good position to respond effectively to the threats that current and future invasive species pose to our agricultural and natural areas.

5. What is your vision for your work with UF/IFAS?

To effectively manage invasive arthropods, it is important first to understand the invasion process and ecosystem effects of these species. A few of the questions I will be asking include: how are these species introduced? What are the patterns of spread? How do they impact the ecosystem? Classical biological control can be a lengthy process. I intend to develop more effective testing strategies for selected biological control agents so that we can increase the chances of success. These testing strategies will place more emphasis on multi-species chemical interactions that are critical to the effectiveness of the agent. For native and introduced biological control agents that already established, it is important to implement conservation techniques that will enhance their efficiency and integration into a broader integrated pest management strategy. The intersection of chemical ecology and conservation biological control presents a unique opportunity for applied research that quickly benefits growers.

My research will be on various crop systems and natural areas that are impacted by invasive arthropods in Florida. I plan to conduct research on the pests of citrus, tomato, soybean, and even honeybee hives, among others. My goal is to build a strong domestic and international research network that fosters collaboration and coordination on the management of invasive species. Besides research, I also have a teaching appointment in the department of Entomology and Nematology, where I will teach courses in Biological Control and Tropical Entomology. Teaching and student mentoring can be very rewarding. The same can be said of outreach efforts to share research products with the community. These activities will help me train the next generation of research scientists and agricultural practitioners that will go on to create knowledge and solve practical problems.

6. The citrus industry’s recovery is exceedingly important to growers in this region. Please — what is your vision for bringing the citrus industry back to Florida? Will you conduct work specific to the Asian citrus psyllid?

Citrus is Florida’s signature crop. The state produces the major share of citrus used for processing juice in the country, with total production only second to California. Accordingly, several UF/IFAS research scientists are working on various projects that benefit the citrus industry in Florida. UF/IFAS efforts span all aspects of citrus research. At IRREC, our scientists are working on multiple projects to support the historic Indian River citrus region and the citrus industry in the entire state. Among others, our research covers breeding, soil fertility, root health, water quality, invasive pest management, and post-harvest handling of citrus. The Asian citrus psyllid has become the key insect pest of citrus in Florida. Besides the direct feeding-related damage caused by this invasive insect, they also vector the pathogen that causes the Huanglongbing or citrus greening disease – the most devastating disease of citrus worldwide. An area of my research will focus on the biological control of the psyllid. Natural enemies such as predators, parasitoids, and even entomopathogenic fungi have been identified for the Asian citrus psyllid. I am interested in studying the community dynamics of the different natural enemy species associated with the psyllid in citrus. One of our research efforts will be to enhance the effectiveness of existing natural enemies, including the introduced ectoparasitoid Tamarixia radiata and various entomopathogenic fungi. Other pest insects of citrus to consider are the Lebbeck mealybug and Diaprepes root weevil. The recovery of the citrus industry from citrus greening or any other tree stressors will be a multidisciplinary collaborative effort. The good news is that those efforts are already on-going and yielding results.

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Posted: May 13, 2020


Category: Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Invasive Species, Natural Resources, Pests & Disease, UF/IFAS Research,



Comments:

Robin Koestoyo
October 22, 2021

Thank you for your wonderful comments! Mr. Croxton--please email me at koestoyo@ufl.edu We need a letter of support for an award nomination. Thank you!

koestoyo

October 4, 2021

The fungi are endemic to Central Florida. Dr. Avery has presented on this topic at the Florida Citrus Show for the last two years. Thank you for your encouraging comments. We are excited about the possibilities.

cooking oil disposal
October 4, 2021

Hey there! I could have sworn I've been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it's new to me. Anyways, I'm definitely happy I found it and I'll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

Rick Minton
October 2, 2021

Yes Good work was wondering where the fungi are found and why didn’t we know about it sooner?

koestoyo

October 2, 2021

Hi Rick. Did you want to comment?

Rick Minton
October 2, 2021

Martin
September 18, 2021

Thanks much, Beth :)

Beth Curry
September 17, 2021

Congratulations Martine

Martin
September 10, 2021

Thanks for your kind words, colega. I am also rooting for you here!! Tons of love from this beautiful strip of land :)

Matt Croxton
August 31, 2021

Dr. Minteer has graciously volunteered her time and expertise to work with an aspiring biocontrol researcher at my high school in Florida. I'm so grateful for her investment and congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition. Outstanding Scientist indeed!

Rebecca Rogers
August 31, 2021

As a teacher in the high school that Carrie attended, North Pulaski in Jacksonville, AR, let me say how proud all of the former students and teachers are that one of their own is making such a positive impact in the world of biological science! I am also proud to see that Dr. Minteer is actively involved with the young people of today, exposing them to the fascinating world of science. Dr. Carrie Minteer, thank you for making a difference!

Alma Gabriela
August 24, 2021

So grateful to meet people like you, my dear collegue. I'm pretty sure that you'll achieve all your goals. I send you a hug from Valle de Bravo, MX.

Patrick Cavanaugh
August 2, 2021

Great work on trying to keep Florida Citrus Growers economically viable. They have weathered a lot over the last decades. Congrats to UF/IFAS!

koestoyo

November 21, 2020

Hello. We need funding to mass raise the thrips for public distribution. Meanwhile, the insects we did raise are at work on state lands and private ranches

Janet Larson
October 10, 2020

How can we get ahold of this thrip? I live in Jacksonville Beach, at the marsh and we have a lot of Brazilian Pepper in City of Jax Beach Cradle Creek Park ( and quite frankly at my house I too, keep hacking at it) The Parks and Rec Dept of Jax Beach would be the contact I guess for this. We did a invasive BP round up one weekend day, but we barely dented the surface of this invasive at Cradle Creek. Please help

shilkaren
September 29, 2020

Hi Koestoyo, Such an amazing article. It's very interesting to read more about how AI can be used in the industry. You would love to see my python course duration and fees in pune site as well. Thanks once again.

Betty Jo Starke
September 25, 2020

This is fantastic. I would love to see the flow of the process from original elementary product and subsequent break down and by products. Isn’t Florida rich in phosphorus over by Route 60 in western side of state? Thank you for your brilliance. - Betty Jo Starke..

Yinka
September 11, 2020

Very insightful! With your wealth of experience,I trust you’ll be a great addition to IRREC

koestoyo

August 12, 2020

Hello Asghar, I have heard from three of our scientists and none of them know about artificial breeding of Telenomus baseola. One of the scientists did suggest that you simply add those keywords to the Google search engine. They feel the answer is somewhere online.

koestoyo

August 7, 2020

I will ask our entomologists and get back to you after they respond.

Asghar Babamir
July 29, 2020

Hello I am an Entomology PhD student at Chamran University of Iran. I am working on artificial breeding of Telenomus baseola. If you have any information about its artificial food send me please.

Egem Ozbudak
July 26, 2020

Thank you very much Şahin Hocam! Being your student was a great chance and privilege!

Şahin Alakuş
July 22, 2020

We are proud of Egem Özbudak. It was clear to see that he is going to be a scientist in the future when he was our student in high school in Izmir, Turkey.

elaine
July 18, 2020

The naturally occurring benefits were on citrus trees growing near the canopy of oak trees. This would say to me that it must be the leaves falling from the oaks to the ground that is giving the citrus trees the oak leaf extract.Therefore, it's brown leaves off the ground that you can use to make your oak leaf tea. I've just been brewing a 5gal. bucket of brown leaves, and watering my trees with the tea once a week. I've had normal looking fruit from my kumquat tree this spring already, so it might be working!

koestoyo

June 16, 2020

Hello, have you seen any changes in your citrus trees?

suba suba
June 11, 2020

I think this is a real great blog post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

Ronke
May 16, 2020

Very good interview with lots of insight. I trust Doc. Tolu will make IRREC proud.

Kelly Babatunde
May 14, 2020

Bravo Doc. I know you will be a great addition to IRREC. More of those giant strides!

WD
May 6, 2020

Darlington oak.

WD
May 6, 2020

Mimic nature. I’m trying it myself, I have nothing to go on but instinct. I’m soaking a 5 gallon bucket full of green leaves for two days, then straining and diluting in my 50 gallon sprayer. Haven’t seen much change but it’s only been 3 weeks, once a week.

koestoyo

May 1, 2020

It is better if the oak leaves are green.

Reginald Rothing
May 1, 2020

If I was to make oak leaf tea to spray my citrus, does it matter if the oak leaves are green or dried brown?

Jon
February 27, 2020

I have several feral citrus trees growing under oak trees in Palm City. Some may be sour oranges, but based on where my dog used to bury grapefruit I believe some are the Duncan variety. I offer these trees for a UF trial study if that would be useful.

joe H walter
January 28, 2020

Program and release in Brevard County will be at the Extension Service, 3695 lake /dr. Cocoa, on April 9th. Registration for the even will be on Eventbrite.

Stephanie
January 25, 2020

I would be curious about the rest of the layers of plants around the citrus and the varietals of oak.

Gina Hubany
January 25, 2020

What about integrating the fallen leaves into the soil? &/or using it as mulch?

koestoyo

January 24, 2020

Where would one import such a map please?

Justin Jeannero
January 24, 2020

So is it possibly people are not seeing the forest for the trees on this one. Is it possible that the soil is healthier around oak trees than in a monoculture environment and maybe there is more beneficial bacteria and mychorizae associated with them than a field type environment. ?

Jay Reynolds
January 23, 2020

Maybe this link to the video will work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtO0Pa6tD8s&t

Jay Reynolds
January 23, 2020

Check out a poductive feral citrus population videotaped in an oak understory and you can see the benefit. Search youtube for the following, "Wild Citrus in a Florida Forest? Why It's a Big Deal."

John Wisler
January 23, 2020

If the extract of the Oak Tree leaves is effective against HLB, It would appear by developing a harvesting method for the leaves could be achieved and have the extract made into a finished spray in quanties at a processing plant like.Bayer chemicalThey being a good place to start. The challenge to Bayer et.al would be to turn this into a systemic treatment which lasts longer than spraying. Bayer et.al have technology in place which they use on the ash boer as an example.If effective systemically on HLB ,is the need to check the toxicology of the extract regarding potential human consumption.is probably required. The toxicology study would be required for sprays as well. Currently existing for other application using systemics on tree can be effective for a year with one application to the base of the tree.The average cost to do an application tree using an application of 1 ounce per 1 inch of circumference of the trunk of the tree should be affordable.

Narinder Singh Majitha
January 22, 2020

Please import 3D map of citrus + oak inter cropping method

Audrey Granahan
January 22, 2020

Would mulching with oak leaves be of any benefit?

Susan Knorr
January 22, 2020

Could new groves be set up with interplanting of oak and citrus trees? It seems like the citrus trees would have to be resprayed regularly, an expensive process.

samiha_FS
November 26, 2019

merci pour les informations

Jeanne Andre
November 9, 2019

Just saw this too late. This is wonderful. Is there a way for me to release in a residential area in Indialantic?

koestoyo

September 12, 2019

Hello Mr. Burchianti. Thrips will be made available to the public in about a year. At this time the scientists are releases thrips during news conferences. A news conference is scheduled for October 24.

koestoyo

September 12, 2019

PRESS RELEASE The Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program Comes to Successful Conclusion Research and extension faculty with UF/IFAS have reached successful completion of the five-year Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program. UF/IFAS project partners are: Dr. Carey Minteer (lead) with the Indian River Research and Education Center and Ken Gioeli (co-lead) at the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. This program began in 2014 as an initiative by the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center and the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County in collaboration with Extension offices and partner agencies throughout Florida. The focus of the project involved the introduction of a new biological control agent Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) to helped teach residents how to use the insect to manage the invasive air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). Floridians struggled to control this invasive vine which can grow up to eight inches per day and smother native vegetation. This UF/IFAS research and extension program was paired with a mass rearing effort and distribution process that helped citizens throughout Florida. Researchers at USDA ARS are credited for discovering L. cheni as a viable biological control agent for air potato. The program has been highly successful with tens of thousands of L. cheni beetles provided to stakeholders for release. It significantly increased the general knowledge of invasive species of the people surveyed by an average of 227 percent and general knowledge about biocontrol by an average of 401 percent. Perception of the safety of biological control increased by an average of 434 percent and perceived effectiveness of biocontrol increased by 344 percent. The combination of a charismatic and effective natural enemy along with an educational program has significantly increased the knowledge about invasive plant species and the knowledge and acceptance of biocontrol as a safe and effective control method. The Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program was recognized with three national awards and one state award. While UF/IFAS has completed research and extension activities with this project, educational resources will continue to be made available online at http://bcrcl.ifas.ufl.edu/airpotatobiologicalcontrol.shtml. This website features information about insect availability from project partners. For additional information, please call Natural Resources and Environment Extension Agent IV Ken Gioeli with the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County at 772-462-1627 or ktgioeli@ufl.edu.

koestoyo

September 12, 2019

PRESS RELEASE The Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program Comes to Successful Conclusion Research and extension faculty with UF/IFAS have reached successful completion of the five-year Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program. UF/IFAS project partners are: Dr. Carey Minteer (lead) with the Indian River Research and Education Center and Ken Gioeli (co-lead) at the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. This program began in 2014 as an initiative by the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center and the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County in collaboration with Extension offices and partner agencies throughout Florida. The focus of the project involved the introduction of a new biological control agent Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) to helped teach residents how to use the insect to manage the invasive air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera). Floridians struggled to control this invasive vine which can grow up to eight inches per day and smother native vegetation. This UF/IFAS research and extension program was paired with a mass rearing effort and distribution process that helped citizens throughout Florida. Researchers at USDA ARS are credited for discovering L. cheni as a viable biological control agent for air potato. The program has been highly successful with tens of thousands of L. cheni beetles provided to stakeholders for release. It significantly increased the general knowledge of invasive species of the people surveyed by an average of 227 percent and general knowledge about biocontrol by an average of 401 percent. Perception of the safety of biological control increased by an average of 434 percent and perceived effectiveness of biocontrol increased by 344 percent. The combination of a charismatic and effective natural enemy along with an educational program has significantly increased the knowledge about invasive plant species and the knowledge and acceptance of biocontrol as a safe and effective control method. The Air Potato Biological Control Extension Program was recognized with three national awards and one state award. While UF/IFAS has completed research and extension activities with this project, educational resources will continue to be made available online at http://bcrcl.ifas.ufl.edu/airpotatobiologicalcontrol.shtml. This website features information about insect availability from project partners. For additional information, please call Natural Resources and Environment Extension Agent IV Ken Gioeli with the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County at 772-462-1627 or ktgioeli@ufl.edu.

Barbara Fox
August 16, 2019

How fortunate we are to have such a 'treasure' in our community. The word is dependent upon such research.

Rosemary Capen
August 13, 2019

Great article. Wish we had more researchers lik you, Jonny.

JOHN BURCHIANTI
July 24, 2019

interested in acquiring the "thrips" insect for control of brazalian pepper trees

Laura Stapleton
July 18, 2019

How can I get more air potato beetles? Since I released the last batch I've found three more areas separate from the original where air potatoes are taking a hold. I appreciate any direction you can give. Sincerely, Laura Stapleton

Debbie Acevedo
June 28, 2019

Hello. I am extremely interested in obtaining as many red beetles as possible. I have over 5 acres that is overrun by potatoe vines. They are consuming our entire property. I am willing to pay for assistance in getting rid of or atleast deterring this problem. Please let me know if you can help. Thank you so much.

KIRAN TIMILSINA
April 18, 2019

Ah great initiation happening around in Florida. In Nepal our citrus groves are in the state of exhaustion. But no one giving a priority to react. https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/citrus-greening-nepals-groves-under-threat/

James Massey
April 13, 2019

A very accomplished career. A gentle giant that will be greatly missed.

Charles and Bobbie Cottle
April 13, 2019

We didn’t know Dr. Calvert, but his son, Victor, came surely from the same mold. An honorable, hard-working man who contributes much to the lives of others. Blessings on the family, all of you. May the memories of Dr. Calvert encourage you to continue his lifestyle.

Madeline Durant
April 3, 2019

My condolences to the Calvert family and UF Ft Pierce..

Şahin ALAKUŞ
October 9, 2018

I had the chance to be Mr ÖZBUDAK's teacher at high school. I am proud of him. I am sure he will be successful on his research.

嫩模黑丝腿控性感兔女郎之吉他美女迷人写真(15p)
March 30, 2018

正在找这个,谢谢!

synonym
December 14, 2017

I’m not that much of a online readeг to be honeѕt but your sites really nice, keep it up! I'll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. Cheers

panele szklane do łazienki łódź
December 8, 2017

Aw, thiѕ was an exceptionally nice ⲣost. Taking the time and actual effort to create a top notch article… but whɑt can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.

koestoyo

September 27, 2017

Congratulations Dr. He and Dr. Wright

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