Argentine researchers prey on strawberry pests

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Argentine researchers prey on strawberry pests

Argentine researchers are experimenting with different predatory insects in Tucuman's strawberry growing region to find a biological control measure for thrips.

The occurrence of this pest has increased over recent years, according to the National Agriculture Technology Institute (INTA) Famaillá. Lack of pesticide options has complicated control efforts and encouraged the institute to seek out alternatives, explained INTA Famaillá strawberry expert Dr. Daniel Kirschbaum.

"Strawberries in this zone are produced basically every day. Harvest is from May to November, so there is no low time for agrochemicals to control thrips. This is why we began to research alternative, biological control methods," Dr. Kirschbaum said.


A natural solution for thrips?

Investigation began in 2009 with the creation of biological control protocol using insects from the Orius genus. During this time, the team collected information on the beneficial and harmful species present in the region.

"We uploaded information from other strawberry zones in the country and we're seeing which native species we can use to control thrips," he said.

"This has allowed us to identify beneficial species and species like thrips that are affecting crops. At first we thought only one species, Frankliniella occidentalis, was having effect. But there are about 10 species of thrips affecting crops."

Alongside thrips, lacewings were also identified during the study. These insects are found in great frequency throughout the ecosystem. Their predatory activity can offer a helping hand to agriculture.

"In this INTA project, what we are doing is evaluating the effect of releasing these natural enemies, grown in a laboratory," the doctor said.

"The idea is to establish release protocol to control thrips and know what quantity of eggs, adults and larvae to utilize. The ideal is to release adults because they can fly and spread out in the crop."

The project is carried out in confined plots to better determine the exact predatory capacity of the insects.

The goal is to create a marketable product for commercial use.

"The protocol is already done. What we need are a couple of more years to test in the field in distinct situations," he said.

"In 2015, we hope to have a package to offer to businesses or to the state to use in mass applications."

Photo: Lacewing, by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia Commons

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