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Researchers use 'banker plants' to help battle whitefly pests
Date:9/10/2012

plant, and the tiny non-stinging wasp Encarsia sophia as the predator. The larvae of E. sophia feed on the silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), the targeted pest. E. sophia is native to Florida and poses no threat to the state's habitats.

In one set of experiments, they forced the wasps to eat the targeted silverleaf whitefly pest to make sure the wasps would control it. In another, they gave the wasps a choice between the papaya whitefly they supplied as a food source and the targeted silverleaf whitefly they want to eradicate. The results, published in Biological Control, show that E. sophia has an appetite for both the alternative food source and the silverleaf whitefly, and that it effectively wipes out any silverleaf whiteflies on crops near the banker plants. The system is now being tested in commercial greenhouses.

The researchers have also shown that corn can serve as a banker plant for a gall midge that controls the two-spotted spider mite, and they are studying whether ornamental peppers can bank a predatory mite, Amblyseius swirskii, which is effective at controlling whiteflies and thrips. Results so far are extremely promising, and the concept is catching on among growers.


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Contact: Dennis OBrien
dennis.obrien@ars.usda.gov
301-504-1624
United States Department of Agriculture - Research, Education and Economics
Source:Eurekalert

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