The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management has won three international awards for outstanding achievement in integrated pest management adoption, implementation, and sustainability. Included is a lifetime achievement award recognizing a Virginia Tech researcher who’s devoted five decades to achieving global food security.

The awards, granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional IPM Centers, are given to researchers who have made significant contributions to reducing human health risks, minimizing adverse environmental effects from pests, developing innovative crop strategies, and facilitating global collaboration. The Regional IPM Centers are the country's premier hub for IPM, linking growers with researchers, extension agents, pest control professionals, and other agricultural personnel.  

IPM Innovation Lab Director Muni Muniappan was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award of Recognition, and the IPM Innovation Lab team won an Award of Excellence. IPM Innovation Lab collaborator Shahadath Hossain, an entomologist at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, won an Award of Recognition granted to individual IPM practitioners in nonacademic positions.

“We are honored to receive these awards,” said Muniappan, who has served as director of the IPM Innovation Lab since 2006. “While our main priority is to serve small-scale farmers in the developing world, a documented history of success will help us to maintain this important work and further emphasize to policymakers and the public the value of collaboration between countries – and most important, the value of environmentally friendly crop solutions.”   

Muniappan is a world-renowned scientist specializing in integrated pest management, tropical entomology, and biological control of insect pests and weeds. His Lifetime Achievement Award underscores a 50-year-long career devoted to reducing poverty and hunger in some of the poorest countries in the world by taking ecological research lessons learned in one setting and transferring and adapting them to others. 

Muniappan is a frequent consultant to governments and international agencies on invasive species and has conducted dozens of workshops around the world to curb the spread of pests such as papaya mealybug and fall armyworm, which both seriously threaten global food security. In his tenure, he has assisted in generating billions of dollars in benefits to the developing world.

“While our society has become incredibly technologically advanced, we have yet to solve one of the world’s most troubling issues, which is hunger,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs. “Virginia Tech is proud to be at the forefront of providing cutting-edge, safe, and sustainable solutions to those who need them most. We are also grateful for the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and insight that will nourish the research and problem-solving abilities coming out of Virginia Tech and the U.S. for generations to come.”

The IPM Innovation Lab’s team award highlights its more than quarter-of-a-century-long history at the Center for International Research, Education, and Development and embodies Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). The team works with scientists in the U.S. and the developing world to provide crop solutions that not only help reduce reliance on chemical pesticides, but are also gender- and culture-appropriate, and increase small-scale farmer yields and income. The team does this in close collaboration with CIRED's Women and Gender in International Development program.

Some of the IPM Innovation Lab’s current major projects include biological control of the invasive parthenium weed in Ethiopia and Uganda, mitigating grain pests in East Africa, and modeling the spread of invasive insects in Asia and invasive weeds in Nepal. The team implements IPM technologies such as fruit bagging in Vietnam, rodent traps in Cambodia, and trap cropping in Kenya.

Since 1993, some of the program’s achievements include: 

  • Supporting more than 600 students in the U.S. and the developing world in pursuing degrees in integrated pest management and related disciplines.
  • Training millions of farmers in over 30 countries on farming solutions, such as the application of Trichoderma, biocontrol, IPM packages for different crops, and pesticide safety.
  • Generating at least $2 billion in economic benefits for developing countries, more than 35 times the initial investment of its funders at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

As the recipient of these awards, the IPM Innovation Lab will have the opportunity to submit a scientific article to a prestigious journal at no cost and will be invited to an awards ceremony in Denver in 2022. In past award events, dozens of countries are represented and hundreds of IPM experts, practitioners, and students attend.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management is part of Outreach and International Affairs.

 — Written by Sara Hendery