"We want to know how fast they move, how high the populations are when they move, and how quickly we see disease development after a population of mites enters the field," he said.

Hopefully, Price said, this will help determine environmental factors that prompt movement and allow researchers to inform producers of the likelihood of high wheat streak mosaic infection in any given year.

"This will then allow producers to take precautions, such as delaying planting until the mites are no longer moving," he said. "Along with the new information and continued cultural practice of destroying volunteer wheat, we can help limit the risk of general wheat virus infection."

This information could help scientists design future research in pesticide application for the wheat curl mite, Price said.

A separate project, funded by the Ogallala Aquifer Program, involves AgriLife Research and scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service at Bushland.

"We know from our previous work that wheat streak mosaic interferes with root development in wheat and restricts water-use efficiency," Rush said. "We also know that wheat streak is progressive and moves across fields.

"What we haven't been able to do," he said, "is to water one area of a field without wasting water on the area damaged by the disease."

Valmont Irrigation has been working with variable-rate nozzling systems for pivot irrigation units that will allow producers to adjust the amounts of water applied in different areas. But the system needs a map of the field to tell it where to and where not to water.