Montana State University

New faces in MSU IPM Team help diagnose Montana plant and insect problems

June 29, 2009

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Some new faces are helping diagnose Montanan's plant and insect problems in the Schutter Diagnostic Lab at Montana State University.

With the aid of a USDA grant for $106,000, MSU for the first time has a complete integrated pest management team, says Barry Jacobsen, Montana IPM program coordinator. The team, in addition to Jacobsen, who is a plant pathologist, includes plant pathologist Mary Burrows, weed scientists Jane Mangold and Fabian Menalled, entomologist Kevin Wanner, pesticide education specialist Cecil Tharp, Linnea Skogland doing plant disease diagnosis, Melissa Graves weed identification, Ruth O'Neill insect pest identification, and Toby Day aiding homeowners with weed and insect pest diagnostics.

"Accurate diagnosis of problems is the first step in IPM. When people send samples in from all over the state, these are the people who will help them," said Jacobsen.

Team members have extensive backgrounds in their specialties. Those most recently added to the team are Skogland, Graves, O'Neill and Day.

Skogland has a doctorate in plant pathology from Colorado State University and ran the diagnostic lab there for six years, handling both agricultural and homeowner problems. Most recently she was cereal pathology manager at Busch Ag.

Graves has a master's degree from Murray State University and experience in both plant identification and teaching.

O'Neill has a masters in entomology from MSU and has worked at MSU for several years, particularly with alfalfa problems.

Day has a masters in plant sciences from MSU and was the Extension horticulture agent for Silver Bow County. He has been hired as the MSU Extension horticulture associate and will have state-wide responsibilities for horticulture education including the Master Gardner Program.

Jacobsen said that under the federal IPM grant, the team will demonstrate integrated pest management practices in county demonstration plots, use monitoring to predict following-year cutworm and disease problems and work to improve weed, insect and disease management for Montana producers and homeowners.

The team also plans to create new IPM literature for landscape and agricultural pests, adding to that already available on the MSU Extension Web at and the High Plains IPM Web (

Jacobsen said that the IPM team will develop an advisory group that includes state personnel, arborists, county agents and others around the state.

The team identifies whether the samples are invading pests or harmless look-alikes. Previous federal funding has allowed the lab to purchase a Web-enabled microscope, which provides the MSU diagnostic team the ability to confer with USDA specialists in Beltsville, Md., or anywhere in the world, while they all look at the same microscopic image.

The IPM team will also coordinate agricultural pest surveys.

"Sometimes the most important job of the team is to identify that a pest is not in Montana," Jacobsen said. "That can be very important for both domestic and international trade."

The diagnostic team can be contacted by phone at (406) 994-5161 or e-mail to .

Contact: Barry Jacobsen (406) 994-5161 or