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Project description

Management of the vine mealybug, Planococcus ficus, by augmentative releases of parasites and ant control. (01XA005)
Program Exotic Pests and Diseases Research Program
J.H. Klotz, Entomology, UC Riverside
M.C. Gispert, UC Cooperative Extension, Riverside County
Host/habitat Grapes
Pest Vine Mealybug Planococcus ficus
Discipline Entomology
Agricultural Systems
Start year (duration)  2001 (Two Years)
Objectives Assess the impact of mass releases of one parasite species, against VMBs on grapes, to determine the effectiveness of colonization or the need for augmentation.

Assess the impact of ants on parasite efficacy.

Combine the most effective VMB control methods for grower assessment in validation plots. (Year 2 of this proposal).

Final Report Validation experiments conducted during the 2003-growing season did not clearly demonstrate that mass releases of the parasitoid, Anagyrus pseudococci (Girault), suppressed populations of the vine mealybug (VMB). Mass releases of 15,000 parasitoids per ac./week (37,000 parasitoids per ha.) were conducted over a three week period beginning in early May. Releases were originally scheduled to begin in early April; however we were not able to obtain the parasitoids from the insectary. Data from 2002 suggests that 12 weekly releases of A. pseudococci at 15,000 per ac. (37,000 parasitoids per ha.) beginning at mid March suppressed VMB populations.

Foothill Agricultural Research (FAR), Corona, CA, provided the parasitoids during this experiment. Estimations obtained from FAR indicate that releases of A. pseudococci cost about $62.00 per ha./week ($25.00 per ac./week). Although 12 weekly releases may suppress populations of the VMB, the additional cost of ca. $741 per ha./season ($300.00 per ac./season) is economically restrictive.

Control of the field ant, Formica perpilosa (Wheeler), is paramount to implementing a successful VMB biological control program in Coachella Valley vineyards. We developed a technique in which a directed spray of Lorsban is applied at field rates to a 1.5 ft (0.5 m) wide strip of soil directly beneath the grapevines where F. perpilosa nests. This method is compatible with a VMB biological control program because Lorsban is not applied to the vine trunks where A. pseudococci and other natural enemies forage. For a detailed description of this technique see Klotz et al. 2003, 'Directed Sprays and Liquid Baits to Manage Ants in Vineyards and Citrus Groves', Journal of Agricultural and Urban Entomology, Vol. 20 No. 1.

Our research has focused on the development of an integrated pest management program for the vine mealybug, Planococcus ficus, in the Coachella Valley. Our objective was to develop an integrated control program to provide growers with a safe and effective alternative to insecticides, which are expensive and environmentally disruptive. In addition, foliar sprays of contact insecticides are ineffective because the mealybugs are often protected beneath the bark. Systemic insecticides are more effective, but resistance to them may evolve in the future. Our program integrates augmentative release of parasites with ant control. To be cost-effective for growers, we assessed the release of 15,000 Anagyrus/acre/week for four weeks, which is approximately the cost of one application of Admire. We determined that releases are most effective around girdling time when the mealybug numbers increase rapidly. Based on our results, we believe that 15,000 Anagyrus/acre/week with four releases, starting at girdling, has the best potential to effectively limit infestations of vine mealybugs within feasible economic constraints.

For ant control, baits are more effective than sprays and less disruptive of biological control. Sprays, such as Lorsban, kill only the ants they contact and not the queen or vast majority of workers in the nest. Baits, on the other hand, can potentially eliminate the entire colony. Use of baits would also reduce the amount of pesticide and environmental contamination in vineyards. Therefore, we have been developing a low-toxic bait to control the major ant pest in vineyards, Formica perpilosa.

Our preliminary results from this year, with data collected over the past two months, confirm that augmentative releases of Anagyrus can reduce and maintain vine mealybugs (VMB) at lower levels than untreated areas (no parasite release). Our results substantiate that newly introduced exotic pests can be managed by integrating biological control with other management techniques. In the absence of chemicals mandated by EPA's Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), growers will have viable options that are economically and environmentally sound. The benefits to California agriculture include (1) a significant reduction in pesticide use; (2) an increased level of beneficial natural enemies of VMB and other potential pests in surrounding crops; (3) an alternative management strategy for growers to use for VMB when the FQPA further restricts or removes pesticides; and (4) an increased level of safety for workers and consumers.

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