Posts Tagged: biological control
providing some advantage to the farmer. Frequently, these are new fertilizer mixes presented as proprietary cocktails promoted and dispensed with promises of a multitude of profitable (yet improbable) benefits to the buyer. With the large number of new products available, and the number of salespeople promoting them, it is often difficult for growers to distinguish between products likely to provide real benefit, and those that may actually reduce the profitability of the farm.
In all situations when a company approaches the University or a commodity research board with a new product or technology for sale to California growers, these institutions act as grower advocates. They are charged with sorting through the available information; asking the right questions; getting the necessary research done if the available information warrants this pursuit; disseminating accurate information on these new technologies and products, and doing all that can help maximize grower profits now and in the future. When approached with a new product or technology it is obligatory to challenge claims with the following questions:
Is there some basic established and accepted scientific foundation on which the product claims are made?
Language that invokes some proprietary ingredients or mysterious formulations, particularly in fertilizers mixes registered in the State of California, raises red flags. A wide range of completely unrelated product benefit claims (such as water savings, pesticide savings, increased earlier yield) raises more red flags. Product claims that fall well outside of any accepted scientific convention generally mean the product is truly a miracle, or these claims are borderline false to entirely fraudulent.
Has the product undergone thorough scientific testing in orchards?
Frequently, products are promoted based on testimonials of other growers. While testimonials may be given in good faith, they are most often not backed up by any real scientific testing where a good control was used to compare orchard returns with and without the product.
A “test” where a whole block was treated with a product and which has no reliable untreated control does not meet accepted standards for conducting agricultural experiments. Also, a treated orchard cannot reliably be compared to a neighboring untreated orchard; and a treated orchard cannot be compared to the same orchard that was untreated the previous crop year. Even a test with half a block of treated trees and half untreated is not considered dependable by any known scientific standard of testing.
Only a well designed, statistically replicated, multi-year trial allows for direct comparison of untreated versus treated trees with statistical confidence. Verifiable data from tests that meet acceptable standards of scientific design, along with access to raw baseline (before treatment) yield data from the same trees (preferably for the two years prior) should be used to determine the validity of test results provided.
Are the test results from a reliable source?
If the testing were not done by a neutral party, such as university scientists, agency, or a reputable contract research company using standard scientific protocols, this raises red flags. If the persons overseeing the tests have a financial interest in seeing positive results from the product, it raises red flags.
Does the product have beneficial effects on several unrelated farm practices?
A product that increases production of trees, makes fruit bigger, reduces pests, reduces water use, and reduces fertilizer costs, is more than a little suspicious. In reality, if such a product really existed, it would not need any testing at all because its benefits would be so obviously realized by the grower community that it would spread rapidly by word of mouth and embraced by the entire grower community.
Are other standard and proven farm products put down in the new product sales delivery?
If a new product vendor claims that their product is taken up 15 times faster than the one growers are currently using, or is 30 times more efficient, it probably costs 15 to 30 times more per unit of active ingredient than the standard market price. Growers should always examine the chemical product label to see what active ingredient they are buying. There has to be a very good reason to pay more for an ingredient where previously there had been no problem supplying the same ingredient at a cheaper price to trees in the past.
There are impartial sources of such information available to farmers to help corroborate information provided by product vendors. Perhaps the most reliable and accessible impartial research and education resources for growers are their local Cooperative Extension Farm Advisors and commodity research boards.
When promising products emerge, local university Farm Advisors can advise growers on how to evaluate these products and may help design a small trial to test a particular product on a few trees under local orchard conditions. If in these pursuits a truly promising new product or technology emerges, research board funding may follow but only on the recommendation of that board's Research Committee.
Editor: Guy B Kyser
The giant invasive grass arundo (Arundo donax), one of the weeds targeted under the USDA-ARS-funded Delta Region Areawide Aquatic Weed Project (DRAAWP), has been re-acquainted with one of its natural enemies imported from arundo's native range. A tiny insect called the arundo armored scale (Rhizaspidiotus donacis) has been successfully released in the Sacramento River watershed and in the Delta.
Arundo forms dense stands across at least 10,000 acres in California, and over 100,000 acres in other arid riparian areas such as the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Mexico. Other control methods such as herbicide application, mechanical removal, mowing or burning have been used to reduce arundo populations in California, costing tens of millions of dollars. However, arundo is a tough plant and takes advantage of human disturbance and fire in riparian habitats along creeks, sloughs, rivers and reservoirs. Arundo populations in California thus exceed the capacity of these other control methods. In the absence of control, arundo consumes and wastes scarce water – a single plant can consume as much water as corn when growing in moist soil under hot, sunny conditions. Dense arundo stands block access to water for irrigation and recreation, and also obstruct flood control structures such as drainage ditches. Arundo also displaces native plants and animals and alters geomorphology and water flow dynamics in riparian habitats in ways that make it difficult for the natives to come back even if the arundo is controlled.
Biological control of invasive weeds focuses on the characterization, release and evaluation of insects (or plant pathogens) from the weed's native range into areas where the weed is non-native. The arundo armored scale was collected originally in southern France, Spain, and Italy. Studies by Spanish collaborators showed that, even in its native range with its own natural enemies, the arundo armored scale reduces shoot growth and rhizome size by 50%.
Biological control agents undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are not a threat to native plants or crops. After a permit review process, the USDA granted a permit for field release of arundo armored scale in 2010. (This is one of two insects that have been released for biological control of arundo in North America.) Since 2011, this biological control agent has been released in the Lower Rio Grande Basin. Initial releases of this agent in California began in 2014, and it was found that the scale insect had become established at one site in the northern Sacramento Valley by November of that year.
Armored scales are small insects that spend most of their lives in an immobile state, covered by their waxy secretions (‘armor'). Adult females produce ‘crawlers' that disperse locally (typically just a few feet) to find new buds coming up from the arundo rhizomes or lateral shoot buds above ground. The crawlers then lose their legs and antennae and insert their stylet-like mouthparts into the arundo tissue to feed on the fluids in the plant's vascular system. Crawlers molt to a second immature phase, and about six to eight weeks later, short-lived adult males emerge from their armor and mate with the immobile adult females. The females continue to feed and slowly develop embryos. A new generation of crawlers then emerges from the females. The life cycle takes four to six months.
Top row, left to right: Tiny (0.5 mm) crawlers emerge from females and settle on rhizomes or lateral shoots. Second-instar immature scales continue to feed and expand. Winged adult males emerge from their oyster-like scale covering. Females (armored scale cover removed) are shriveled and skinny right after molting. Mature females are plump and turn a darker color when they are full of crawlers ready to emerge. Bottom row, left to right: Adult females form aggregations on arundo rhizomes and shoots. The presence of armored scale populations causes shoot distortion and reduces both shoot growth and rhizome size.
In 2015, we tested a new release technique using arundo ‘microplants'. We soaked arundo shoot fragments in water for one month, then planted them in pots where they produced new shoot buds and roots. Armored scale crawlers were released onto the microplants. After about six months, we planted the infested microplants at field sites in the Delta – Andrus Island on the Sacramento River, and at Big Break near Oakley – and along Stony Creek in Glenn and Butte Counties north of the Delta. We established the microplants adjacent to large arundo shoots, and we cut off some of the established shoots to encourage production of new rhizome buds and lateral shoots. We watered the microplants as needed to keep them alive for about 6 months.
Left to right: Microplant with gelatin capsules used to isolate scale crawlers from females (capsules had been opened and crawlers poured onto the base of the plant). Greenhouse bench with arundo microplants. Field plot with arundo shoots cut back to promote new shoot and rhizome growth. Base of an arundo shoot at the field site (arrow indicates location of adult female scales that developed from crawlers that had previously came out of the females on the microplants.
Almost one year after planting, in November 2016, we sampled arundo rhizomes and shoots from the areas where the now-dead microplants were placed. At the Sacramento River site, 150 females were found, and at a site on Stony Creek in Butte County, 72 females were found. The females were placed in gelatin capsules to capture crawlers. A total of 1,668 crawlers emerged by early January 2017. Since there are still many more arundo shoots around the microplant sites, these results indicate that the arundo armored scale has established reproductive populations at three sites in California. This is the first establishment of this biocontrol agent in the state. Additional releases are planned throughout the Delta and surrounding watersheds. Along with the arundo wasp (Tetramesa romana), the arundo armored scale is expected to significantly reduce the potential for arundo to grow, disperse and form damaging populations that threaten water resources.
This work is conducted under the USDA-ARS-funded Delta Region Areawide Aquatic Weed Project (DRAAWP). This portion of the project is led by Dr. Patrick Moran (Patrick.Moran@ars.usda.gov) of the USDA-ARS Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit, Albany, CA. Dr. Moran is working with a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Ellyn Bitume (Ellyn.Bitume@ars.usda.gov), on this project. Contact us if you have questions. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy (Beckye Stanton) is collaborating with USDA-ARS to identify field sites in the Delta, connect with landowners, and integrate biological control with their chemical arundo control program. Dr. Moran cooperates with landowners and local Reclamation Districts to obtain access to field sites.
Users of predatory mites in berries really should take a look at this link, which covers the feeding habits of the various predatory mites in use:
We have had resurgence of broad mite damage on coastal lemons this year. We haven't seen damage like this in a long time. Chlorpyriphos should care of it, but with small orchards, spray drift can be an issue. We looked at releasing the predatoiry mite Neoseiulus californicus. In the lab we challenged broad mite successfully so we took it out to the field. This is not the best time to release, because of the cold weather. Also it's best to release into a rising pest pressure. When there are too many pest mites, it's difficult to get good control. We released at an economic level of about 100 per tree, whihch would cost about $150 per acre. We've counted for 5 weeks and there is little apparent control in the field. ikt's just been too cold to build the population of beneficials. We'll try again next spring if the broad miter is there.
Curlling leaves from mite damage and the small mites hiding in fruit depressions