Dr. Yadong Li, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Jackson State University, recently received $984,200 from the National Science Foundation to partner with other universities to study the global impact of a controversial and widely used new generation of insecticides, specifically neonicotinoids.
The HBCU-EIR (Excellence in Research) award supports a project titled “Fate and Transport of Neonicotinoid Insecticides in the Environment.” Neonicotinoids have been used commercially since the early 1990s. However, they now have triggered global concern.
Li is the lead principal investigator (PI). He’s working alongside Dr. Yiming Liu, a chemistry professor in JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology. Liu serves as a senior scientist for the research.
JSU is receiving $589,200 to conduct research. Meanwhile sub-awards will be granted to Mississippi State University ($91,200), with Dr. Guihong Bi, professor of plant and soil sciences and co-PI; and Tennessee State University ($395,000), with Dr. Lin Li, a civil engineering professor who formerly worked in a similar capacity at JSU. He’s now at TSU and serves as the PI for the collaboration. Funding for the entire project is set for three years.
Three scales of the insecticide project
Yadong Li said the grant was provided through NSF’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP). The program provides awards to strengthen STEM education and research at HBCUs. He rallied a research team to put together a proposal.
The project involves small-scale laboratory experiments, middle-scale greenhouse tests and large-scale field tests.
“Currently, the lack of knowledge and scientific data on the environmental behaviors of neonicotinoids hinders the understanding of the potential environmental impacts of their uses,” Yadong Li said. As well, he said it’s impossible to establish environmentally sound regulations and practices without such research.
“This project uses a systematic and comprehensive approach to study the environmental fate and transport of the neonicotinoids.” He added that the goal is to acquire “in-depth knowledge and data after neonicotinoids have been applied to agricultural soils.”
Researchers will carry out four tasks
Professors, researchers and students at each of the universities will work collaboratively on the project to carry out the following tasks:
- Examine the sorption-desorption and degradation mechanisms of neonicotinoids in three typical agricultural soils in the U.S. using laboratory batch tests
- Investigate the transport and dissipation/accumulation of neonicotinoids in soil environments through laboratory column tests, greenhouse simulation tests and controlled field tests with multiple plant-growing cycles
- Investigate the dissipation/accumulation of neonicotinoids in water bodies, including surface water and groundwater through laboratory experiments and pilot scale outdoor tests
- Study the long-term environmental impacts of neonicotinoids with fate and transport models verified with experimental data
Yadong Li said he anticipates three results from the fate and transport data of the following seven globally important neonicotinoids. These insecticides are imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, thiacloprid and nitenpyram. Researchers will experiment with each of these insecticides on three major types of soils, typical groundwater and surface waters in the southern U.S.
He said, ultimately, the scaled-up greenhouse and field tests would provide greater knowledge and data on the behaviors of neonicotinoids. And, he said he expects the verified simulation models would predict their long-term impact on the environment.