It starts with a nibble. Then a leaf is tattered and lace-like. Soon your beautiful, bountiful garden looks like fire ravaged it.
Agricultural pests, like the Japanese beetle, are devastating to farmers who depend on crops for survival.
“The question is how to mitigate pesticides’ detrimental impact on the environment and humans,” he said.
Much of his research now focuses on determining the least amount of pesticide to apply that allows minimal damage to crops, but still provides the necessary amount of pest control.
The plant and the pest
Pszczolkowski studies the pests – both their biology and their habits. As a brain physiologist, he tries to answer questions about why pests behave the way they do.
He also studies the pest-resistance of different plant varieties.
In the lab, Pszczolkowski’s students look for alternatives to traditional synthetic pesticides. The team tests plant essential oils that could be used as natural insecticides. These bio-insecticides target specific insects.
Pszczolkowski’s received more than a quarter of a million dollars in grant funding for projects since coming to Missouri State. This research has resulted in patents and pesticide application process changes.
Read more about his work
When he looks to the future, he hopes to influence the United States Department of Agriculture’s recommendations on pest control.
“I want to give something to the grower: an insecticide, a method, something,” he said. “Because there are times when one of these would benefit more than the others.”