OSU Researcher receives environmental stewardship award

June 2, 2009

AURORA, Ore. – Oregon State University Extension horticulturalist Robin Rosetta chases rose midges in the Rose City – and with award-winning results.

Rosetta, who works at OSU’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, has received the first Partner in Environmental Stewardship Award from the City of Portland Parks and Recreation. She was honored for her "many years of extraordinary effort" supporting the city's Integrated Pest Management program.

IPM is an approach to pest control that encourages sound, effective practices while minimizing damage to the environment. Rosetta’s research at Portland's International Rose Test Garden has focused on the rose midge, a key pest of roses that has been regaining prominence in the United States. The insect was practically eliminated in the 1980s but began a resurgence in 2003 affecting gardens and the nursery industry. Roses infested with midges lose 75-80 percent of their blossoms.

True to IPM practices, Rosetta has encouraged fewer chemical treatments to eliminate the rose midge – from 12 foliage sprayings a year, which also kills beneficial insects, to one application in the soil before the rose midges emerge.

Rosetta focuses her work on discovering which life stage of a pest is most vulnerable and when to intervene with treatment in the least toxic way. Biological controls can include sending predator mites after other mites. Mating disruption – or "male confusion" – is another effective IPM tool, she said. Pheromone dispensers use female-excreted chemicals to disorient males and reduce mating.

Slugs and snails are part of Rosetta's research, which she calls her "shop of little horrors."

"Slugs and snails can push otherwise organic gardeners over the brink," Rosetta said, but she wants people to be aware of these unpopular pests and use effective IPM methods. She has found 11 different species of slugs and snails in her own garden, and all are non-native.

"The native species play a critical ecological role in the natural environment," Rosetta said. "Exotic species, though, tend to ravage our crops and landscapes in a sometimes irritating and often expensive manner."

Rosetta uses Twitter on a daily basis. Her "tweets" are alerts about pest infestations of plants in the Pacific Northwest. Nursery managers and employees in the area are becoming familiar with the new Twitter Web site @PNWNurseryIPM for brief alerts, and the more extensive Pacific Northwest Nursery IPM Web site for the latest on IPM practices.

A section of the Web site is devoted to identification of snails and slugs to aid in prevention and effective management.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Robin Rosetta