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Phytotoxicity of Pheromonal Chemicals to Fruit Tree Foliage: Chemical and Physiological Characterization

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Some recent high-load, low-density pheromone-release devices emit an ethanolic blend of pheromone directly onto crop foliage to control insect pests by mating disruption. This study characterized the phytotoxicity associated with deposition of some pheromonal compounds in concentrated drops on the foliage of trees bearing aerosol release devices. The relative toxicity of straight-chained alkanes, alcohols, aldehydes, and acetates with chain lengths varying from C-2 to≈C-20 was quantified in the laboratory by the severity of necrotic lesions. The order of severity for phytotoxicity caused by pheromonal compounds was alkanes ≪ acetates = aldehydes ≤ alcohols. Within compound classes tested, pheromones with chain lengths of 6–13 carbons were the most phytotoxic. Phytotoxicity was not detectable at dosages <1 mg administered in 10 μl of ethanol. Phytotoxicity of pheromones was highly correlated with presence of both a hydrophilic and lipophilic molecular domain. We postulate nonspecific membrane disruption as a likely mode of action for pheromonal phytotoxicity. Limited attempts to remediate this effect by changing carrier solvents or adding surfactants, spreaders, or nonvolatile diluents were not successful. Because the toxic action of pheromones upon plant tissues appears relatively benign, and growers have not been adverse to localized phytotoxicity to foliage and fruits on two trees per 0.4 ha, we propose that limited phytotoxicity associated with first-generation aerosol dispenser technology can be viewed as nonthreatening.
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  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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