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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fort Pierce, Florida » U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory » Subtropical Insects and Horticulture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #373227

Research Project: Exotic Whitefly Pests of Vegetables and Ornamental Plants

Location: Subtropical Insects and Horticulture Research

Title: Predator-In-First: A preemptive biological control approach for sustainable management of multiple pepper pests in Florida

Author
item KUMAR, V - University Of Florida
item MEHRA, L - Kansas State University
item McKenzie, Cindy
item OSBORNE, L - University Of Florida

Submitted to: Sustainability: The Journal of Record
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/18/2020
Publication Date: 9/22/2020
Citation: Kumar, V., Mehra, L., McKenzie, C.L., Osborne, L. 2020. Predator-In-First: A preemptive biological control approach for sustainable management of multiple pepper pests in Florida. Sustainability: The Journal of Record. 12(18):7816. https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su12187816.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187816

Interpretive Summary: The establishment of natural enemies in a production system (field, greenhouse, or nursery) is critical for the success of a biological control program. In the past, researchers have proposed multiple strategies aiding the establishment of beneficial agents in agroecosystems such as “Pest-In-First,” “Slow Release,” “Banker Plant” and the use of artificial liquid food sprays as predator supplements. Predator-In-First (PIF) is a preemptive approach, which aims to establish predators in an agroecosystem before the appearance of pests. PIF utilizes the characteristics of type III generalist phytoseiid mites, which can survive on plant pollen and nectar provisioned by its host plant and establish in the absence of their prey. An established population of natural enemies helps target the pest at their incipient stage of infestation. In our efforts to develop a sustainable pest management solution for the pepper growers of Florida, we adopted the PIF approach and tested its applicability in controlled greenhouses and commercial pepper field production environments.

Technical Abstract: Predator-In-First (PIF) is a preemptive approach, which aims to establish predators in an agroecosystem before the appearance of pests. PIF utilizes the characteristics of type III generalist phytoseiid mites, which can survive on plant pollen and nectar provisioned by its host plant and establish in the absence of their prey. In the first part of the project (Kumar et al. 2015), through a series of studies, we screened >25 pepper cultivars for their ability to sustain predatory mite populations Amblyseius swirskii Athias-Henriot under no prey conditions. The current study was undertaken to assess the application of the PIF approach using the two best pepper cultivars (7039 and 7141 screened in the previous study) for their utility in suppressing common pests of pepper. Two greenhouse and three field trials were conducted in different pepper growing seasons in Florida. Pepper seedlings (~8 wk) were infested with three different rates (20 or 40 mites/plant or 1 sachet/10 plant) of swirskii mite and allowed to acclimatize on hosts before planting. Results showed a significant suppression in whitefly and thrips populations under greenhouse conditions and whitefly and broad mite populations in the pepper fields. A significantly higher pepper yield (compared to control) was observed in the treatment with 40 mites/plant in both field studies. The outcome of the study is encouraging and demonstrates that PIF can be a potential alternative to current chemical-based conventional pest management practices.