The Predator from Stoneville Research Quarantine Facility (SRQF)


Behind this drab concrete fortess the USDA is carrying out a secret research project manipulating insects for ‘biological control’. In 1976 the Stoneville Research and Quarantine Facility (this building kind of has that concentration camp feel about it) was designated by APHIS to receive exotic parasites, pathogens, and predators. Since then, SRQF has evolved into a center for research and service in support of classical biological control, which is importation, study, release, and establishment of exotic natural enemies.

SRQF cooperates with state, federal and foreign scientists in research programs aimed at ‘controlling’ some of this nation’s worst agricultural pests. In 1982, SRQF officially became regional and national in its support activities. SRQF is now operated by a permanent full-time USDA ARS Quarantine Officer who is under supervision of a Research Entomologist in the Biological Control and Mass Rearing Research Unit.

SRQF consists of 316 m2 (3,400 ft2) of quarantine work space, and 242 m2 (2,600 ft2) of nonquarantine work space, and 111 m2 (1,200 ft2) of equipment space. Nonquarantine space includes offices, a laboratory, rest rooms, a storage room, and a large air-conditioned greenhouse. Quarantine space features shower and change areas, a receiving room, two large laboratories, a rest room, two greenhouses, and smaller specialty areas. Quarantine equipment includes four walk-in growth chambers, a walk-in cold chamber and freezer, reach-in growth chambers, laminar flowhoods, and microscopes. A large pass-through autoclave is situated between quarantine and nonquarantine areas as an additional safeguard against contamination.

Federal statute requires shipments of biological material to follow established guidelines and procedures. Imported material must be screened for unwanted plant and host material, hyperparasites, and for positive identification of shipped organisms. Current projects involve biological control and augmentation efforts for such pests as Formosan subterranean termite and kudzu.

The Stoneville Quaantine Facility is under the auspices of the USDA-ARS National Biological Control Laboratory (NBCL) which is located at the Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center (JWDSRC) in Stoneville, Mississippi. The NBCL will provide an interdisciplinary team of scientists with facilities for basic and applied research towards developing practical methods of mass propagation, storage, and delivery of beneficial organisms, as well as targeted release strategies for integrated pest management. Scientists housed in the NBCL are from four research units: Biological Control of Pests, Southern Weed Science, Southern Insect Management, and Crop Genetics and Production Research Units. NBCL will be the first facility in the world to have the combination of scientific specializations for fully integrated research in biocontrol technology.

The 53,000 sq. ft. facility includes separate wings for work on macroorganisms and microorganisms.

The research area is separated from the mass culture area by an airlock/shower. This area includes a room for media preparation, and separate rooms for the fermentors and bioreactors, with computer control of all processes located in rooms with window viewing access. Cold storage of product is immediately adjacent.

The Insect Wing is compartmentalized and progresses from office area to insect research laboratories to multi-species rearing of insects to the pilot plant area, which is dedicated to private sector involvement.

There are eight insect rearing rooms with the capability to closely monitor and control temperature, relative humidity control, and lighting. There is an extensive food preparation area, which includes the capability of customizing many diets using the diet mixing room, the diet preparation room and the form-fill-seal food packaging machine.

The Microbial Wing is compartmented and progresses from offices to microbial research, to microbial mass culture to grow-out rooms to harvest areas, to the pilot plant area. The microbial research area consists of six individual laboratory rooms that minimize the potential of cross contamination of product. This area also contains a central location for joint use equipment, and a separate room to contain sterilization equipment.

In addition to the research labs, space is provided for two pilot plants (2,500 sq. ft. and 5,000 sq. ft.). These plants will be used in cooperation with private organizations to test the practical applications of propagation techniques and to foster commercial production.

The Mid-Delta area contains many private research and development agrochemical and seed companies. NBCL is expected to stimulate further increase in local agricultural industries. The ARS Program is partnered with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) Program.

The next time you look at a grasshopper, or are annoyed by the buzz of that mosquito, you might just wonder if it could be an exotic (genetically modified) predator that has escaped quarantine from the “Mass Rearing Unit” of Stoneville. Might this predator be uniquely designed to carry a novel “bug”?

10 Minute Citizen: Write a Letter to the Editor of your local paper and inform the public about biologically modified “bugs”. If you have unlimited long distance you might just give the facility a call at (662) 686-3068 and frankly share with them you don’t appreciate your tax dollars being spent on bug modification.