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Research Project: New Tools for Managing Key Pests of Pecan and Peach

Location: Fruit and Tree Nut Research

Title: Using microbial biopesticides to control pecan weevil

item Shapiro Ilan, David
item Cottrell, Ted
item Bock, Clive
item WELLS, LENNY - University Of Georgia
item HUDSON, WILLIAM - University Of Georgia
item MIZELL III, RUSSELL - University Of Georgia

Submitted to: Pecan Grower
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/21/2017
Publication Date: 12/1/2017
Citation: Shapiro Ilan, D.I., Cottrell, T.E., Bock, C.H., Wells, L., Hudson, W.G., Mizell Iii, R.F. 2017. Using microbial biopesticides to control pecan weevil. The Pecan Grower Magazine. 29(6):18-38.

Interpretive Summary: One of the key pests in pecan is the pecan weevil. Pecan weevil is controlled with broad spectrum chemicals. These chemical pesticides can be harmful to the environment and garner secondary pest outbreaks and resistance. Our overall goal for this project is to develop alternative production practices for pecans that are sustainable and effective. The focus of the research has been on the use of novel environmentally friendly insecticides based on microbial products. We discovered that a bacteria-based product (Grandevo®, based on a bacteria called Chromobacterium subtsugae), along with beneficial entomopathogenic nematodes (round worms that only attack insects) and an insect-killing fungus (called Beauveria bassiana) significantly reduced pecan weevil damage in USDA and commercial pecan orchards. All the products used are deemed safe to humans and the environment and can be used in organic farming settings. Also, we found that the bacteria-based product (Grandevo®) controlled pecan weevil at the same level as conventionally used chemical insecticides. The findings show great promise for developing environmentally sound pest management tactics in pecan and other crops.

Technical Abstract: The pecan weevil, Curculio caryae (Horn), is a major pest of pecans. Based on environmental concerns, effective alternatives to broad spectrum chemical insecticides for C. caryae control must be sought for pecan production in conventional and organic systems. We investigated the use of microbial biopesticides for control of C. caryae in Georgia pecan orchards. We conducted three experiments. The first investigated an integrated microbial control approach. Three microbial control, Grandevo® (based on byproducts of the bacterium Chromobacterium subtsugae, the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema carpocapsae, and entomopathogenic fungus, Beauveria bassiana, were applied to each treatment plot (0.6 ha) at different times during the season. In a second experiment we compared the effects of S. carpocapsae and B. bassiana applied as single treatments relative to application of both agents (at different times); survival of C. caryae was assessed one year after larvae were added to pots sunk in an organic pecan orchard. In a conventional orchard (with 1.0 ha plots), the third experiment compared Grandevo applications to a commonly used regime of chemical insecticides (carbaryl alternated with a pyrethroid). All experiments were repeated over two consecutive years. The combined pest management tactic (Experiment 1) reduced C. caryae infestation relative to non-treated control plots in both locations in 2014 and one of the two locations in 2015 (the other location had less than 1% infestation). In experiment 2, no differences among combined microbial treatments, single-applied microbial treatments or different numbers of application were observed, yet all microbial treatments reduced C. caryae survival relative to the control. In the third experiment, both Grandevo and standard chemical insecticide applications resulted in lower weevil infestation than the control (both years) and there was no difference between the insecticide treatments in 2014 although the chemical insecticide regime had slightly lower infestation in 2015. These results provide evidence that microbial biopesticides can substantially reduce pecan weevil infestations in organic and non-organic systems.