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Macrolophus as a biocontrol agent: Optimising release and feeding strategies

Research

PE 020 - Macrolophus as a biocontrol agent: Optimising release and feeding strategies

Start Date: 
01/01/2014
Completion Date: 
31/12/2014
Project Leader: 
Paul Howlett, Wight Salads Group
Code: 
PE 020

Industry representative: Dr P Morley

HDC project cost: £23,685

 

The Problem:

• Macrolophus adults and nymphs are voracious predators and will feed on whiteflies, Liriomyza leafminers, spider mites and Tuta absoluta. The have the potential to become one of the most useful biological control agents available to tomato growers. However, at £70 - £80 per 1,000, Macrolophus are also one of the most expensive, so the predator must always be used as efficiently as possible.
• HDC project PC 302d demonstrated that when Macrolophus does establish efficiently it can form the basis of a highly effective IPM control programme for Tuta absoluta. However, establishment and population growth have been inconsistent.
• Population growth was improved when the predator was provided with supplementary food in the form of Artemia / Ephestia eggs. However, further investigation of the optimum rates / timing of Macrolophus release and the true benefits of providing supplementary food were beyond the scope of that project.
• The Tomato Growers’ Association Technical Committee has requested that HDC fund further studies on this subject starting from the beginning of the 2014 growing season (Minutes of TGA TC meeting on 4 December 2013).
• The project will evaluate the speed of M. pygmaeus population growth from six combinations of release rate and feeding strategies on two types of cultivars. The trials work will be done in commercial nurseries following the general experimental approach that was successfully developed in HDC project PC 240 and more recently used in HDC projects PC 251, PC 295 and PC 302/b/d. Experimental design and analysis of data will be done under the guidance of a senior statistician with considerable experience of completing trials under the constraints imposed by commercial crop production.
• WSG has assembled a team of appropriately qualified and experienced personnel to undertake this project. The team have an excellent record of delivering practical solutions and effectively conveying new information to the tomato industry.
• Based on the losses reported within this proposal, the project could provide payback in less than one year.
 
Aims and objectives:
 
Project aim:
To improve the reliability and consistency of Macrolophus pygmaeus as a biocontrol agent on UK tomato crops.
Project objective(s):
1. To evaluate a range of release rates and approaches to the provision of supplementary food
2. Draft a Factsheet for UK growers describing in detail the new strategy
3. Convey results to tomato industry