Jun 25, 2024
Study: strawberry growers can use fewer pesticides to control pest

A University of Florida research shows how strawberry growers can use fewer pesticides to control a destructive pest.

An invasive pest in the southeastern U.S.. chilli thrips was introduced from Southeast Asia. The first report in Florida came in 1991 in Okeechobee County and then in 1994 in Highlands County, which primarily grew citrus.

University of Florida research shows how strawberry growers can use fewer pesticides to control chilli thrips, a destructive and invasive pest.
Chilli thrips larva. University of Florida research shows how strawberry growers can use fewer pesticides to control chilli thrips, a destructive and invasive pest.

 

Sriyanka Lahiri, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology, focuses on the potential damage chilli thrips can cause to Florida’s $500 million-a-year strawberry industry. Strawberries grow mostly in Hillsborough County, but also in Manatee and Polk counties.

In the newly published study, Lahiri and her colleagues found chilli thrips prefer to aggregate in about a 100-meter radius outside the center of strawberry fields. That’s because in the field-border area, chilli thrips are close to adjacent woods, where they can easily live during the summer and reinfest during the next strawberry season.

Growers can save money and time by spraying lower volumes of insecticides in smaller portions of their fields. The more efficient spraying can protect beneficial insects in and around their fields, which in turn will assist with maintaining healthier strawberry plants.

“Our findings are important to growers as they can now save money and time by having to spray a lower volume of insecticides in smaller portions of their field,” Lahiri, a faculty member at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said in a news release. “They can protect the beneficial insects in and around their field by doing this, which in turn will assist with maintaining more healthy strawberry plants.”

UF University of Florida IFASSpecifically, growers should spray no closer than 100 meters – or about 330 feet of their field border. They should leave the rest of the field either untreated or manage it by using biological control agents, botanicals and flowering plants, according to the release.

Field-border pesticide treatments can reduce pesticide use to two to three applications per season, down from the typical six to 10 sprays of the entire field done now, according to the release.

Additionally, strawberry plants that are treated with insecticides are likely to produce seven times more marketable fruit than those suffering from season-long chilli thrips infestation, Lahiri said in the release.

“To manage the first round of migrating chilli thrips populations, growers will need to use any one of the effective chemical sprays,” Lahiri said in the release. “Once the initial population has been knocked down to manageable levels, you can use biological control agents such as predatory mites, minute pirate bugs, Beauveria bassiana-based compounds or botanical insecticides such as Captiva Prime and Azera.”


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