Justin Shade
Justin Shade Headshot
Year: 2023
Faculty Advisor: Katja Poveda
Faculty Advisor: https://cals.cornell.edu/katja-poveda

Preference and Performance of the Seedcorn Maggot Under Different Environmental Conditions

Delia platura, also known as the seedcorn maggot (SCM), is an agricultural pest fly that damages the seeds of a wide range of crop species, preventing the plants from emerging. Seedcorn maggot adults lay eggs in soil adjacent to freshly-planted seeds, which hatch into larvae that damage embryos, roots, shoots, and cotyledons, causing plants to fail to germinate entirely. This is particularly dangerous in NY’s short growing season because farmers do not have sufficient time to replant before winter arrives and it becomes too cold for corn to survive. The overarching goal of my experiments was to determine how environmental conditions could affect SCM populations. We accomplished this by measuring SCM oviposition preference and performance in the lab with varying levels of soil moisture, nutrient availability, and seed planting depth. We found that a high level of moisture is a short-term deterrent to seedcorn maggot oviposition, high-nitrogen environments are more attractive for oviposition, and planting depth may decrease seedcorn maggot performance. Nitrogen-rich traps, irrigation, and deeper seed planting could potentially be used as alternative pest management strategies for seedcorn maggots. However, due to how these factors may negatively impact plant germination, further research is needed before farmers are given prescriptive advice.

I would consider my time in the lab an overwhelming success. With the support network I had between my lab, mentor, PI, and social mentor, I learned about the inner workings of being a graduate student. I learned a plethora of lab techniques, and acquired new skills in statistical analysis that will remain useful for the entirety of my career moving forward. The short time I have spent here at Cornell has been as impactful as the rest of my undergraduate education in propelling me towards my academic and career goals, and I hope to continue my collaboration with the university in the future.