Soil-dwelling predatory mites could make a perfect ally to fight citrus crop infestations of Pezothrips kellyanus or thrips, a small insect that damages the fruits' peel.
The study conducted by researchers at the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia (UPV) in Spain, in collaboration with Universidad de Navarra and Biobest Belgium N.V., may provide an alternative to pesticide usage.
Ferran García, a UPV researcher and professor, explained that the insect is a serious economic problem for the citrus industry due to the round scars it produces on the top of the fruit.
"This is a purely cosmetic condition, but with serious consequences," he said.
According to Europa Press, the research explores a previously untouched topic, as explained by researcher Cristina Navarro.
"This is the first study in Spain that has evaluated the behavior of soil-dwelling mites and how their degree of presence can affect thrip populations and, therefore, the presence or absence of crop damage," Navarro said.
The team analyzed four citrus orchards in Valencia, Spain and identified 15 species from eight mite families. The most abundant were the Parasitus americanus (Parasitidae) and the Gaeolaelaps aculeifer (Hypoaspis aculeifer), the latter showing the best field and laboratory results for fighting infestation.
"From the study, we concluded a direct relationship exists between the presence of this mite in the soil and thrip improvement in citrus fruits," García said.
"It suggests that these mites could provide an alternative to currently used chemical products,"
The study was published in the journal Biological Control.