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Tomato leaf miner

Tomato leaf miner larvae feed on leaves and fruits, from seedlings to mature tomato plants. Infestation is often followed by infections by secondary pathogens rendering infested crops unmarketable.

An additional host plant of Tuta absoluta is the potato plant but not the tuber! Damages reported on other Solanacaea species or tobacco are much less serious.

Where does tomato leaf miner occur mostly?

Tomato and potato are among the most widely cultivated vegetables in Europe as well as worldwide. Production of several of these crops is threatened by infestation of the invasive tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta. The pest is originating from South America and is now invading field and greenhouse production sites in Europe. Since 2006, the tomato leaf miner has rapidly spread across southern Europe and the Mediterranean area, including Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Northern Africa. The insect has also been found in commercial greenhouses in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany and several other countries.

What are the economic consequences of tomato leaf miner?

Tomato is grown on 272,500 ha in Europe and tomato leaf miner is a main pest in the Mediterranean growing areas. Tuta absoluta reduces yield and fruit quality of tomatoes grown in greenhouse and open field. Attacked tomato fruits lose their commercial value. Losses of 50–100% have been reported on tomato (EPPO, 2005). On potato, Tuta absoluta is considered as one of the major foliar pests, occurring in warm zones of low altitudes (below 1000 m) (CIP, 1996).

How can tomato leaf miner be controlled?

For control of tomato leaf miner, chemical insecticides have been applied and biological control strategies have been evaluated. However, Tuta absoluta already shows resistance to many chemical insecticides. Tomato leaf miner is currently controlled by spraying specific synthetic insecticides.

Use of pesticides

As larvae are internal feeders it is difficult to achieve an effective control through application of chemical insecticides. Moreover, tomato leaf miner can rapidly evolve strains with resistance to insecticides that have been previously effective. Failure by synthetic insecticides has also been reported in many countries.

BIOCOMES biological control agent

As many tomatoes are grown under non-chemical control regimes and in greenhouses where application of chemical insecticides has been abandoned, the development of efficient biological control tools is essential. Some satisfactory results have been achieved with application of predators and parasitoids with entomopathogenic nematodes, as well as with the spraying of Bacillus thuringiensis products. However, more efficient bio-control agents need to be developed and reliable control strategies have to be established.
Isolates of the entomopathogenic baculovirus PhopGV will be selected for their virulence to tomato leaf miner, potato tuber moth and Guatemalan potato moth.

Photo: Tomato leaf miner. Picture: Marja van der Straten, NVWA Plant Protection Service, Bugwood.org.

Johannes Jehle
Johannes Jehle
Tomato leaf miner, potato moths
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Biological Control Agents

The isolates will be characterized by biological and molecular means and will be tested in greenhouse and field trials. Based on these findings a product for combined control of pests will at the end of the project be developed.

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Current stage of the Biological Control Agent

75%

Month 18: Protocol for rearing and bioassaying target insects
Month 24: Report on biological activity of isolates
Month 36: Report on RFLP analysis of all isolates and on the genome sequences of selected isolates
Month 36: Results of field tests1st year
Month 48: Results of field tests2nd year

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