Category Archives: News

Eileen Cullen receives Agricultural Research Stations Recognition Award for Excellence in Research

cfans_asset_229604Eileen Cullen received the 2014 Research Recognition Award from UW-Madison CALS Agricultural Research Stations on January 23rd.  CALS had this to say about Eileen in their award announcement:

Eileen Cullen is a great role model for scientists who conduct research on the Agricultural Research Stations. Her research at the Arlington Station focuses on the development and refinement of IPM programs for both conventional and organic production systems, and she was instrumental in the establishment of 30 acres of organic research on the Arlington Station.  She actively uses her research programs to instruct students. She also has provided assistance to the station with crop scouting and recommendations for dealing with pest problems that arise during the growing season.  She has been a member of the Agricultural Research Stations Committee and has assisted with several staff recruitments.

Read the full article here Congrats to ARS award winners, eCALS announcement, January 6, 2014


New Paper in Journal of IPM – Delaying resistance to Bt corn in western corn root worm

While Bt corn has been highly effective against the European corn borer, it has been less so against the western corn rootworm. A new article by Eileen Cullen and colleagues published in ESA’s Journal of Integrated Pest Management explains why and recommends an integrated pest management approach to address this issue.  Read the Entomological Society of America press release here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE (open-access and free of charge).

Cullen EM, Gray ME, Gassmann AJ, Hibbard BE. 2013. Resistance to Bt corn by western corn rootworm (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in the U.S. corn belt. Journal of Integrated Pest Management 4(3): D1-D6(6), DOI:


Ebony Murrell wins WARF Discovery Challenge Award

Dr. Ebony Murrell (postdoctoral researcher in Entomology, Cullen lab) received a WARF Discovery Challenge Award on October 16, 2013 from the UW-Madison Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation acknowledging exceptional collaborative work by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. 

Ebony’s project, with Co-PI Dr. Pierre-Marc Delaux (postdoctoral researcher in Agronomy, Ané lab) is titled Soil Practices, Plant Nutrients, and Mycorrhizae Affect Oviposition Response of Ostrinia nubilalis to Corn. Ebony and Pierre-Marc will receive $5,000 to advance their research through this newly formed interdisciplinary collaboration.

Ebony and Pierre-Marc are one of three WARF Discovery Challenge winning teams selected from among more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who participated in a research symposium and mini-grant challenge to develop groundbreaking, interdisciplinary ideas. The WARF Discovery Challenge is a program recently pioneered by the WARF student ambassadors with the goal of encouraging graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from across the entire campus to learn from each other and expand their research vision.

As part of our USDA OREI project investigating organic soil and crop nutrient management practices, crop plant nutrient profiles, and insect response, Ebony is studying how different fertilization practices (synthetic fertilizer, manure, and manure + gypsum) affect attraction of the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) to corn plants.

Ebony and undergraduate research mentee Crystal Hanson, found that O. nubilalis altered the number of eggs laid on plants depending on fertilizer used. The strongest response correlated with sulfur (S) abundance in the soils and plants. Surprisingly the amount of natural colonization of arbuscular mycorrhizae (a fungal symbiont) on plant roots grown in soil from our certified organic Long-Term Experiment site and a conventional field check altered O. nubilalis response even though mycorrhizae had not been specifically manipulated in our field plots or Ebony and Crystal’s preliminary greenhouse study with those same soils.

Ebony and Pierre-Marc will conduct a followup study to identify the actual fertilizer-mycorrhiza-plant mechanisms that cause this insect response. While a growing body of literature has investigated how herbivorous insect response may be modified by plant nutrition, to our knowledge no study has explored mycorrhizal additions as a method for insect pest suppression. Ebony’s collaboration with Pierre-Marc will investigate how gene expression in corn-mycorrhizal associations, as altered by fertilization practices, affect plant-insect interactions. 

Congratulations Ebony!

Read the full announcement in the October 17, 2013 WARF Press Release here

Elissa Chasen awarded North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grant

Posted: August 14, 2013

The North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program has awarded thousands of dollars in grant monies to students and their professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for various projects.

** Elissa Chasen and Professor Eileen Cullen: $8,509.00 grant for the project “Beyond Economic Thresholds: Incorporating Proactive Pest Management Strategies in Alfalfa Pest Management Programs for Potato Leafhopper”. This research project studies the efficacy of several pest management tactics for the potato leafhopper in alfalfa. Combinations of potato leafhopper resistant alfalfa and mixed alfalfa-orchardgrass stands are evaluated within the context of an economic threshold model. Concurrent field and laboratory experiments provide scientific data to follow up on farmer observations connecting applications of liquid dairy manure to alfalfa stands to a decrease in potato leafhopper abundance.

Read the full announcement in the 08/14/13 edition of the Wisconsin Ag Connection here

New Paper in Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture

Posted: June 28, 2013

Research that Prof. Cullen collaborated on with Irish colleagues while on 2011-12 sabbatical leave to Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Ireland is published in the 7 June 2013 edition of Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

The paper is titled “Effect of organic, conventional and mixed cultivation practices on soil microbial community structure and nematode abundance in a cultivated onion crop”.

In this work, responses of the soil microbial and nematode community to organic and conventional agricultural practices were studied using the Teagasc Kinsealy Systems Comparison trial. This trial is a long-term field experiment which divides conventional and organic agriculture into component pest-control and soil treatment practices.

Cullen is grateful to Irish colleagues and Teagasc Johnstown Castle for the opportunity to collaborate on this work.

Congratulations Crystal Hanson and Ben Seliger, NSF REU Fellowship Recipients

Posted: May 21, 2013

Congratulations to two undergraduates finishing up research and employment with the Cullen lab this spring after one year with the lab.  Crystal Hanson and Ben Seliger are moving on to new opportunities as both are recipients of National Science Foundation – Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) fellowships.  Congratulations to Cyrstal and Ben!  We thank them for all their great work in the field, lab, and greenhouse over the past year in the Cullen lab.

2013 Undergraduate Symposium

Posted: May 21, 2013

Two of our lab members participated in the spring Undergraduate Symposium 2013 at University of Wisconsin – Madsion. Undergraduate Researcher Crystal Hanson (majoring in Psychology with a Certificate in Global Health) presented her poster titled “Soil Practices, Plant Nutrients, and Mycorrhizae Affect Oviposition of European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) to Corn”.


Crystal Hanson presenting her research on soil-plant-insect interactions at the 2013 Undergraduate Symposium.

Crystal and her mentor, postdoctoral associate Dr. Ebony Murrell, grew corn plants in a greenhouse experiment in soils collected from our USDA NIFA – OREI organic IPM long-term experiment site. They assessed the number of eggs laid on each plant, mineral content of plant tissues, and amount of mycorrhizal colonization on each plant’s roots. Soil fertility field history significantly affected plant nutrition, and corn plants grown in organically managed soil with a history of gypsum amendment possessed higher S, Fe, and Cu content (but not calcium) compared to organic and conventional soils without gypsum. Results show that (1) Gypsum supplementation does not appear to deter corn borer oviposition (2) Pest response to mycorrhizal colonization varies according to crop fertilization.  These results have important implications for how fertilization techniques may affect crop plant nutrition and insect pest response.

New paper in Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

Posted: May 21, 2013

Cullen lab alumna Katelin Holm’s M.S. Agroecology (2009) public practice work is published in the March 2013 issue of the journal Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Katelin was the first public practice graduate of the Agroecology program at UW-Madison. Katelin’s is now Information and Education Coordinator/Water Quality Specialist at the Polk Co. Wisconsin Land and Water Resources Department.

The paper (Cullen and Holm 2013) is titled “Aligning Insect IPM Programs with a Cropping Systems Perspective: Cover Crops and Cultural Pest Control in Wisconsin Organic Corn and Soybean“.

This article presents a conversation among researcher, agroecology student, and farmers about the association between cover crops and seedcorn maggot in organic grain crops. Survey data showed that Wisconsin organic farmers would use cover crop management, insect degree day forecasting, and planting date cultural controls, given appropriate knowledge context and extension information provision. We developed electronic and print resources and engaged with farmers and educators nationally through the eOrganic Community of Practice. Project outcomes exemplify student and farmer ability to effect change in land grant university extension recommendations through integrated pest management content and delivery aligned with a cropping systems perspective. 

Ebony Murrell has joined the lab as postdoctoral research associate

Posted: June 14, 2012 

Dr. Ebony Murrell has joined the lab at postdoctoral research associate to work with the USDA NIFA – OREI project. Welcome to the lab Ebony!


CALS Newsmakers: Eileen Cullen

Posted: April 14, 2012

Entomologist Eileen Cullen is an expert on integrated pest management, field and forage crops, and conventional and organic agriculture.

Cullen is among a group of concerned scientists that wrote a letter to the EPA in March 2012 warning about the spread of recently discovered populations of corn rootworm that are resistant to genetically engineered corn, and urging the organization to take steps to discourage the spread of this menacing pest.

The group’s warning was delivered in the form of a EPA Open Docket Letter posted on March 7 titled “Comment submitted by Patrick Porter, North Central Coordinating Committee NCCC46 (22 members).”

For more information, read NPR’s The Salt blog post:
Insect experts issue ‘urgent’ warning on using biotech seeds.

Courtesy of CALS News