A man in a black shirt, Kyle Slusher, Ph.D.
Kyle Slusher, Ph.D., brings a range of insect pest management expertise that will help identify control regimens for producers across a range of fruit crops, including pecans, wine grapes and berries. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Kyle Slusher, Ph.D., was hired as a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist and assistant professor in the Texas A&M Department of Entomology to bolster the agency’s statewide fruit pest management program.

Slusher, who has been helping growers in Georgia and Kentucky protect crops like pecans and blackberries from insect pests, now brings that expertise to the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Stephenville. His position will be 75% AgriLife Extension and 25% Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

While his primary focus is on pecans, Slusher said he will also be responsible for providing pest management strategies for fruit production and vineyards. Slusher’s position was prioritized by Texas A&M AgriLife to meet producer demand for expertise and science-based recommendations related to sustainable fruit production across the state.

“Research has been my focus, but I’ve been gravitating toward the extension side of the field because I enjoy the engagement with growers,” he said. “I like taking what I do in my research and sharing it directly with them.”

Slusher expands fruit pest management expertise

Slusher previously worked as a postdoctoral research assistant with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Lab in Georgia.

His work focused on pecan pest management, including developing techniques for collecting and processing samples and statistical data analysis. Slusher was also involved in biological control experiments using nematodes against pecan weevils and ambrosia beetles.

He earned a doctorate in entomology from the University of Georgia, Tifton, and a master’s in environmental studies from Kentucky State University.

Helping growers make their operations more economically and environmentally sustainable by implementing an array of integrated pest management strategies will be a priority, Slusher said. He is engaging with producers, stakeholder groups like the Texas Pecan Growers Association, and other agencies and institutions around the state and country for extension programming and collaborative research opportunities.

Slusher said he is interested in research that implements combinations of biological and traditional control methods, including beneficial predatory insects, nematodes, natural pest pathogens and the most effective insecticides. He added that subsequent field trials will provide Slusher the scientific data needed to design effective pest management strategies for fruit and nut growers around the state.

“I think there are a lot of growers who are looking for information and effective, science-based practices to apply to their operations,” he said. “Texas is a big state with many different production environments and challenges, so that gives me the opportunity to expand what I know and can share.”

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