The corn earworm is of particular concern because it is migratory and pesticide resistant, he said.
"The corn earworm is an established global pest, and particularly in the Southern U.S., where it has proven difficult to manage," Krupke said. "It is resistant to several existing pesticides, and adult moths are capable of being transported long distances in the jet stream to infest new crops."
Alexander said a reduction in corn yields could have substantial economic and social impacts, including higher food prices and reduced food supply.
"Losses due to insect pests, including the resources required to control them, is the biggest cost for corn production," Alexander said. "The European corn borer has been estimated to cost the United States around $1 billion annually, and the corn earworm is responsible for destroying about 2 percent of the corn crop."
Low corn reserves add to the impact of a poor growing season. The 2007-08 30-year low inventory resulted in the United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization Food Price Index increasing by 47 percent, with cereal prices increasing 62 percent, she said.
"With increasing demand and a limited supply, even small reductions in yield, for example from a pest expanding its range by 60 miles, could result in substantial economic and social consequences," Alexander said. "In addition to loss of yields, the variation in yields could drive up the costs of insurance and disaster relief for farmers."
The research team next will look at a broader range of crops and will work to create a more complete modeling framework, Diffenbaugh said.
|Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner|