Reducing Synthetic Chemical Use to Optimize Pest Management and Crop Production: A case study of onion thrips in onion

Recorded April 11, 2024

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Brian Nault

Brian Nault, Professor and Program Leader, Department of Entomology at Cornell AgriTech.

Large-scale commercial onion production is reliant on synthetic chemical inputs like fertilizer and pesticides to ensure its profitability. Onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) is a major pest that threatens the sustainability of onion production. The potential exists for reducing onion thrips infestations in onion by decreasing levels of fertilizer applied at planting and insecticides applied to foliage during the season. Brian Nault will share the results of his multi-year study with 20 New York commercial onion fields on the viability of reducing synthetic fertilizer and insecticide inputs without compromising onion bulb yields. The onion growers in the study successfully reduced their synthetic chemical inputs resulting in greater profits and a reduction of chemicals in the environment.

Brian Nault

For over 25 years, Dr. Nault’s research and extension program has broadly covered applied insect ecology and vegetable entomology. During this time, Brian and members of his program have focused on understanding the ecology of pests that attack vegetable crops, some of which transmit viruses, and then developing practical, economical and environmentally responsible IPM strategies. His program at Cornell has helped vegetable growers in New York and beyond successfully implement solutions to their pest problems, including new invasive pests, saving millions of dollars. Brian has leveraged over $14 million at Cornell to support his research and extension program and published 125 peer-reviewed papers, 3 book chapters and hundreds of other research and extension articles. Brian has mentored or co-mentored 25 graduate students, 9 postdoctoral associates and dozens of undergraduates. His former graduate students and postdoctoral associates hold research positions in academia, government and industry and others have positions with university extension. Brian received all three of his degrees in Entomology; his B.S. was from The Ohio State University, M.S. from the University of Georgia, and Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

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