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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fort Pierce, Florida » U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory » Subtropical Insects and Horticulture Research » Research » Research Project #440446

Research Project: Developing Attract and Kill Devices to Control Pest Psyllids in Orchard Crops

Location: Subtropical Insects and Horticulture Research

Project Number: 6034-22320-007-022-N
Project Type: Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 1, 2021
End Date: May 31, 2023

To develop Attract and Kill Devices (AKD) of pest psyllids in orchard crops, specifically citrus and yerba mate. The yerba mate psyllid causes deformation and loss of leaves of the yerba mate plant, resulting in significant loss of the crop. The leaves of yerba mate are used for making a tea which is very popular in South America. There are no insecticides registered for use in yerba mate and consumers demand tea that is grown without insecticides. The Cooperator has conducted extensive research on discovering and producing fungal pathogens to control yerba mate psyllid while the SY has conducted research on the development of AKDs that dispense fungal pathogens of psyllids from a point source. By incorporating visual and scent attractants that specific to the pest psyllid, the AKD provides an environmentally safe control device that causes minimal damage to non-target insects, such as pollinators and biological control insects, and that is acceptable to consumers. Knowledge gained from researching AKD devices for the yerba mate psyllid will be used to inform development of AKD devices for Asian citrus psyllid. The Cooperator has expertise in microbiology and culturing of fungal pathogens of insect pests while the SY has expertise in psyllid behavior and ecology. The combination of the investigators areas of expertise will facilitate the investigations. The Cooperator and SY will communicate and collaborate via virtual meetings and email.

The SY will provide designs for AKDs to the Cooperator. The Cooperator will test the AKD prototypes in yerba mate orchards to determine which designs are most effective for capturing and killing yerba mate psyllids. Initially, yellow sticky cards will be placed inside the AKDs to serve as a killing agent. Once the most attractive and effective AKD prototype design has determined, we will begin to conduct tests using fungal pathogens of the psyllid as the killing agent. While these fungal pathogens occur naturally, formulations of the pathogens that are sprayed on the foliage of crop plants are not always very effective because the pathogen spores are vulnerable to desiccation and exposure to ultraviolet light. The AKDs will be designed to reduce exposure of the pathogen spores to ultraviolet light and to maintain humidity around the spores. Progress in the development of AKD for yerba mate psyllid will be used to inform the development of AKD for Asian citrus psyllid.