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UC Riverside entomologist recognized for research in citrus entomology

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Robert Luck, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, has received the California Citrus Quality Council's prestigious Albert G. Salter Memorial Award for "his enthusiastic and innovative applied research in citrus entomology."

Luck is a leading expert in the research of armored and unarmored scale insect control using biological methods.

"This is a truly deserving award for Professor Luck and also points out the value of UC research to the citizens of California," said Rick Redak, the chair of the Department of Entomology. "Luck's efforts have led the world in developing environmentally safe ways to control insect pests of citrus such that we all benefit from pest- and chemical-free produce at a reasonable cost. Without UC research of this type, the quality of our food would be less and the costs substantially higher. To say the least, the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside is proud to have been home to Dr. Luck for more than 30 years."

Over the last several decades, Luck has collaborated with colleagues and members of the California citrus industry to reduce its pest management costs using natural enemies to suppress a number of important citrus insect pests biologically. This effort also led to a substantial reduction in the amount of pesticide applications required to maintain the quality and marketability of California's citrus fruits.

"I am fascinated by these tiny, specialized, host specific, non-stinging wasps that we use to suppress several important citrus pests," Luck said.

He explained that the female wasps specialize on a single pest species and will lay one or more of their eggs in or on an immature pest insect. The eggs they lay in the host insect will hatch and the resulting larvae will consume the pest insect and emerge as an adult.

"They are able to locate their specific pest species because they recognize a unique chemical signature associated with the pest," he said.

Luck initially began his work at UCR as a forest and urban entomologist working on the bark beetles in the local mountains and on elm leaf beetle, and urban pest, before becoming involved in the California red scale, which was a major pest of Southern California citrus.

In 2003, he received the International Organization for Biological Control's Distinguished Scientist Award for his research involving the use of host specific natural enemies as a means of suppressing these pests. In pursuing this pest control tactic, Luck carries on a 140-year old tradition that gave rise to the Citrus Experiment Station, now part of the Agricultural Experiment Station at UCR.

"This pest management tactic arose in Southern California citrus because of the successful suppression of an Australian citrus pest, the cottony cushion scale, which was accidentally introduced into Southern California in the middle 1800s," Luck said. "This insect is now rare in California in the absence of pesticide disruption and has remained so for some 140 years."

Luck is the 13th researcher at UCR to receive the Salter Memorial Award. He received the award in January 2010.


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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