Inoculative release strategies of Macrolophus pygmaeus Rambur (Hemiptera: Miridae) in tomato crops: population dynamics and dispersal
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Macrolophus pygmaeus Rambur (Hemiptera: Miridae) is a key biological control agent in greenhouse tomato crops. In the present study, we describe the population dynamics of M. pygmaeus after release during two generations in semi-commercial greenhouses in order to optimize biocontrol programs. We tested the effect of the number of weekly supplementary food applications consisting of a mixture of Ephestia kuehniella Zeller and Artemia franciscana Kellogg in a tomato crop on population numbers of M. pygmaeus at low and high initial release densities of the predator. Also, the effect of supplementary feeding on the predator’s dispersal was studied. Larger population densities of M. pygmaeus were obtained when food was supplied for a longer period. However, we observed fruit damage by M. pygmaeus at high densities resulting from too frequent food applications. Also, dispersal was slowed down as the number of supplementary food applications increased. Distributing M. pygmaeus over more plants at release results in higher total population densities. The optimal inoculative release strategy of M. pygmaeus is a trade-off between high population densities and fruit damage, fast or slow dispersal throughout the greenhouse and the number of release plants and work/costs related to the supplementation of food. The optimal strategy to overcome negative effects like fruit damage, slow dispersal and potential cannibalism proved to be a weekly provision of supplementary food during 6–8 weeks, with an initial release density strategy of 20 M. pygmaeus adults per plant. These results contribute to a more sustainable tomato production. A reliable and efficient inoculative release strategy for the key predator M. pygmaeus enhances the biocontrol potential and is of great value for tomato growers.
KeywordsTomato Glasshouse vegetables Miridae Macrolophus pygmaeus Biocontrol Inoculative release strategy Population dynamics Dispersal
The Institute for the Promotion of Innovation through Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT) financed this study. The research Project 100888 was granted to Proefstation voor de Groenteteelt (R. De Vis and L. Wittemans) in cooperation with Proefcentrum Hoogstraten, Ghent University and the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research.
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