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Evaluation of the nematodes Steinernema feltiae and Thripinema nicklewoodi as biological control agents of western flower thrips Frankliniella occidentalis infesting chrysanthemum

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In greenhouse studies, we evaluated a commercial formulation of the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema feltiae and the inoculative release of the thrips-parasitic nematode Thripinema nicklewoodi against western flower thrips (WFT), Frankliniella occidentalis Pergande infesting potted chrysanthemums. Foliar sprays of S. feltiae applied at 1.25–2.5×10 3 IJ mL −1 and 1000 – 2000 L ha −1 at 3-day intervals alone (targeting feeding stages) or in combination with soil applications (simultaneously treating non-feeding stages in the soil at the same rates) decreased but did not provide adequate control of thrips in flowering plants artificially infested with a dense population. Similar nematode treatments applied for four to five applications at 6-day intervals in two batches of initially clean chrysanthemums failed to prevent unacceptable damage to flowers and leaves from a dense natural infestation within the greenhouse. Although some IJ survived up to 48 h within flowers and flower buds, few nematode-infected thrips (larvae and adults) were recovered. In studies with T. nicklewoodi (which is not amenable for mass production), the inoculative releases of two parasitized hosts per plant enabled the nematode to become established within existing WFT populations under greenhouse conditions. However, relatively poor transmission and slow speed of kill (nematode primarily suppresses populations through host sterilization) prevented low level inoculations being effective over a single crop cycle. Further studies showed that transmission of T. nicklewoodi persisted for nine host generations, infected up to 83% of adult thrips and provided long-term suppression of discrete caged populations, but only after uneconomically high thrips densities had been reached.
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Keywords: Biological control; Frankliniella occidentalis; Steinernema feltiae; Thripinema nicklewoodi; chrysanthemums; entomopathogenic nematodes; host inoculation; parasitic nematodes; western flower thrips

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Biological Control Laboratory, Department of Entomology, A&M University, College Station, Texas, TX, USA

Publication date: 01 January 2006

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