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Plant Health

Center for Plant Health Science and Technology

CPHST Lab, Mission, Texas


Pest Detection, Diagnostics & Management Laboratory

Location: Edinburg, TX
Phone: (956) 580-7301
Fax: (956) 580-7300
Contact: Paul Parker

The main Mission Lab building was constructed in the early 1980ís. The first two projects at the laboratory involved the biological control of citrus whitefly and silverleaf nightshade. Numerous other insect and weed biocontrol projects followed during the 1980ís and 1990ís, including leafy spurge, diffuse and spotted knapweed, Russian wheat aphid, Colorado potato beetle, purple loosestrife, boll weevil, and silverleaf whitefly. Historically, the Mission Lab has served as a facility that mass-reared beneficial insects for biological control of arthropod and weed plant pests. The laboratory has participated in a number of large-scale national domestic programs as well as smaller projects that are limited in scope or regional in nature.

Within the past 6 years, the Mission Lab transitioned from large mass-rearing projects for biological control towards other control strategies in domestic and emergency programs including offshore pest safeguarding initiatives. Emphasis is placed on molecular diagnostics for arthropods and invertebrate pests; remote sensing/global information systems; epidemiology of certain plant diseases such as citrus canker, fruit fly trapping, sterile insect technique (SIT) support, and integrated pest management of offshore pest problems. Even with all these changes, the laboratory still has a very experienced cadre of biological control scientists with extensive expertise and accomplishments in weed and arthropod biological control.

The Mission Lab is well equipped as an entomology and plant pathology laboratory with emphasis on biological control, integrated pest management, fruit fly SIT support and epidemiology of citrus diseases. The molecular diagnostics unit is specifically focused on the development of molecular diagnostic tests for arthropods including fruit flies and other invertebrate pests such as gastropods. Our genetics facility is equipped with basic equipment for performing general molecular experiments, including four ultra-cold freezers for reagent and specimen storage. For PCR method development, we have eight standard PCR machines, two gradient PCR machines, and three Smart Cyclers (Cepheid) for Real-time PCR. In addition, we have two CEQ8000 instruments (Beckman Coulter) for analysis of DNA fragments and sequencing, one 7900HT ABI instrument (Applied Biosystems) for high throughput real-time PCR, one ND-1000 spectrophotometer (NanoDrop) for estimating DNA concentrations, and one Fluor-S MultiImager (Bio-Rad) for documenting results.

Our staff at the Mission Lab includes thirteen scientists, eighteen technicians and two administrative support staff. The Mission Lab is located at the Moorefield Air Base in Edinburg, TX and comprises seven permanent buildings including the main laboratory with environmental growth chambers and molecular genetics lab. Seven permanent greenhouses are attached to the main building. Surrounding buildings include an arthropod quarantine facility including quarantine greenhouse space, a fruit fly quarantine building in support of fruit fly SIT activities, an entomology field lab/genetics lab, and a SIT support. Other supporting structures include poly greenhouses, a shade house and a field insectary.

Recent Accomplishments

  • Utilized a molecular fingerprinting technique (ISSR-PCR) to assess the genetic variation in geographic populations of the Mexican fruit fly.
  • Determined the efficacy of nine commercial molluscicide formulations against the Cuban slug (Veronicella cubensis) in Rota (Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands).
  • Developed a DNA-based method to identify immature LBAM in California
  • Developed a DNA-based method to identify species of arionid slugs
  • Developed dispersion patterns and sampling plans for Asian citrus psyllid in south Texas.
  • Completed epidemiology field studies of cankered citrus fruit and asymptomatic fruit.


Last Modified: November 29, 2007