Release rate for a pre-plant application of Nesidiocoris tenuis for Bemisia tabaci control in tomato
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Nesidiocoris tenuis Reuter (Het.: Miridae) is widely used as a biological control agent of whiteflies and other pests in greenhouse-grown tomatoes. It is typically released augmentatively some weeks after transplanting and needs several weeks to establish. Releasing N. tenuis prior to transplanting could accelerate its establishment. However, timing for releases could affect biological control and require changes in release rates of the predator. Because N. tenuis is also phytophagous it must be released at a rate which provides the best equilibrium between adequate biological control of Bemisia tabaci Genn. and acceptable injury to the crop. The objective of this study was therefore to evaluate different release rates for releasing N. tenuis prior to transplanting for maximizing control capacity and minimizing injury to crop. The study was carried out in two subsequent trials in which different release rates were evaluated under a worst case scenario of rapid immigration of the pest into a tomato greenhouse. In the first experiment (winter experiment), four treatments were compared: (1) B. tabaci (0 N. tenuis/plant), (2) B. tabaci + 0.5 N. tenuis/plant, (3) B. tabaci + 1 N. tenuis/plant and (4) B. tabaci + 2 N. tenuis/plant. In the second experiment (summer experiment), the treatments were: (1) B. tabaci (0 N. tenuis/plant), (2) B. tabaci + 0.5 N. tenuis/plant and (3) B. tabaci + 1 N. tenuis/plant. All the evaluated rates significantly reduced the population of whitefly and gave adequate control of the pest. However, only 0.5 N. tenuis/plant did not increase crop damage compared to the treatment with no N. tenuis.