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Crop Association Honors UW Extension Entomologist for Diagnosing Pest Problems

March 3, 2021
man talking to child looking at insect collection
UW Extension entomologist Scott Schell helps a youngster at his exhibit during a field day at the Powell Research and Extension Center. (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming Extension entomologist Scott Schell has received the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association (WCIA) Excellence in Service Award for his contributions to the Wyoming seed industry.

Schell was selected for his efforts in diagnosing a complex of insect pests that devastated smooth bromegrass production in northern Wyoming over the last two years -- and for providing guidance on how management could retain that production opportunity.

“We are proud of Scott Schell and this recognition of his service to Wyoming agricultural producers,” says Kelly Crane, director of UW Extension. “Scott is an outstanding extension specialist with an unquestionable commitment to responding to the needs of Wyoming community members with technically accurate, relevant and engaging educational programs in entomology.”

Gary White, a seed production fieldman for Allied Seeds LLC, had noticed a drop in seed yields for smooth bromegrass and reached out to Schell for help.

“I suspected a bug problem and needed help with the first step in finding a solution, a literature search,” White says. “Scott helped me with that and volunteered to help with whatever may be found the following season in the grass seed fields.”

As the growing season progressed, White shared photos and sent samples to Schell.

“I know it was difficult for Scott, as he informed me he was working from home, but had a microscope and would be able to examine the insect samples if I would send them to his residence,” White says. “In my opinion, Scott went above and beyond what he had to, to help with this seed production problem.”

Schell’s work determined there was more than just one pest causing damage.

“Some of the insect pests, such as thrips, wheat stem maggot and the wheat head armyworm, are impacting other grasses as well, so the economic impact of his efforts is significant,” says Mike Moore, manager of the Wyoming Seed Certification Service, located at UW’s Powell Research and Extension Center.

Schell’s efforts related to previous work, such as providing a greater understanding of the lygus bug life cycles, and improving control efforts for the pest that impacts alfalfa and sainfoin seed production in the state.

Schell dissected alfalfa stem samples sent by White a few years ago to help with an issue related to alfalfa seed production.

“Remarkably, Scott dissected those stems and made some groundbreaking photos of alfalfa weevil nymphs exiting stems through the floral buds,” White says. “Until Scott did that work, everyone thought the larvae exited the stems just above ground level.”

Those photos helped White better communicate with contract seed producers how and why to control alfalfa weevil to produce higher quality and better yielding alfalfa seed.

“Assessment of the samples, and communication with follow-up questions, was fast and showed an exceptional commitment to helping,” Moore says.

Schell’s efforts led to the creation of a presentation at the WCIA meeting last month to help growers understand the pests.

“It is not often that someone can have such a significant impact on an agricultural enterprise that is anything but new, and the WCIA is very grateful,” Moore says.

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