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Harvest Public Media
Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Watch: The Insect Factory that Breeds Better Bugs

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Dan Garrison for Harvest Public Media
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Scientists at the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Insectary raise insects adapted to attacking bugs and plants harmful to agriculture. ";

Halfway down a dead-end road in the small farming town of Palisade, Colorado, is the research facility known as “The Insectary.”  Scientists at the lab develop "biocontrol insects," insects adapted to attacking bugs and plants harmful to agriculture. 

Colorado’s Insectary is the oldest and largest facility of its kind in the United States.

The pioneering program began in response to a peach pest called oriental fruit moth that devastated the local crop in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Scientists saved the famed Palisade peach industry by successfully introducing the parasitic wasp, Macrocentrus ancylivorus, which was the perfect predator to control the moth.   

Today the facility’s angular, modern design stands out in its rural setting, but it reflects the groundbreaking science going on inside. Room after room of labs and two greenhouses are full of pesky insects and noxious weeds that have been introduced into the United States accidentally or on purpose over the years and are proven plagues to food and field. 

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Credit Dan Garrison for Harvest Public Media
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Insectary staff study plant and animal threats to crops and their natural predators.

The Insectary staff is busy studying the beneficial bugs that may eradicate these threats. It’s serious research that can take a decade or two before confirming a potential biocontrol insect is sure to be on target in its attacks and not become a pest itself.  According to the Insectary’s Manager, Dan Bean, “We want to make certain the agents we release are safe -- that’s the number one priority is safety.  We want to make sure we don’t release something that’s going to feed on a ‘non-target’ as we say.”

Once these bugs are available for general release in Colorado and on a more limited basis in other states, they’ve already passed the Insectary’s rigorous test as natural agents that can replace expensive, chemical pesticides and potentially do the least possible harm to the environment. 

Bean sees the use of biocontrol insects as, “an important part of organic farming and for farmers that are using pesticides it is an important way for them to reduce pesticide use.” 

Breeding a friendlier brand of bug, Bean says, is better than unintentionally creating the super-bad ones that can become resistant to more and more lethal doses of chemical insecticides. 

This story was produced by Rocky Mountain PBS and Colorado Mesa University.

Watch the video to learn more:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18k-KX7CGuQ">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18k-KX7CGuQ