Many crops, such as tomatoes, beans, cassava, cotton, cucurbits, potatoes, sweet potatoes, as well as many fruit and ornamental crops are affected by whiteflies. Whiteflies can become a serious pest in summer months under dry and warm conditions in greenhouses and especially under Mediterranean field conditions in Europe.
What are the symptoms of the damage caused by whitefly?
Whiteflies are sucking sap at the underside of the plant leaf. Plants become weak and show disrupted growth. They also suffer from sticky ‘honeydew’ excreted by whiteflies. Since whiteflies are congregating in large numbers, susceptible plants can be quickly overwhelmed. Whiteflies share a modified form of hemimetabolous metamorphosis, in that the immature stages begin life as mobile individuals and soon attack host plants. The stage before the adult is called a pupa, though it has little in common with the pupal stage of holometabolous insects.
What are the economic consequences of whitefly?
The vegetable growing area in the EU amounts to more than 3 million ha. The economic management system and thresholds for this pest are depending on the crop value on the market, population level, and the costs of controlling the pest.
How can whitefly be controlled?
Synthetic insecticides are commonly used to control various insect pests in the targeted crops. The new biological control agent has to be included in integrated pest management systems (IPM). This will reduce chemical residue levels at harvest. Furthermore, the risk of development of resistance to the applied insecticides will be lower.
Use of pesticides
Whitefly control is difficult and complex, as whiteflies rapidly gain resistance to chemical pesticides. And the fact that especially in greenhouses beneficial insects are released means that only insecticides with a specific action can be used.
BIOCOMES biological control agent
A new biological control agent will be developed for pest insect control in open field crops and in greenhouses. The host range of the fungal agent will be determined in the project to define the specific markets to be targeted. The genus Isaria (formally Paecilomyces) with the two species Isaria farinosa and Isaria fumosorosea is a promising candidate for biological control of insects, especially whitefly.
Recently, the efficacy against a range of fruit moths has been shown as well. Several commercially important pests of citrus and greenhouse whiteflies can be affected by Isaria fumosorosea, which clearly demonstrates the economic potential of Isaria fumosorosea.
The new biological control agent will be developed for different cropping systems under different environmental conditions. The new impact for the established market for whitefly control will be a high efficacy in combination with straightforward storage conditions, suitable applicability, and acceptable costs of the product. The first indications on the efficacy of the new biological control agent (BCA) under different application strategies will be evaluated.
Biological Control Agents
Current stage of the Biological Control Agent
Month 18: Preliminary results of characterization and identification studies under laboratory conditions
Month 36: Final results of characterization and identification studies under laboratory conditions
Month 36: Screening results under greenhouse conditions
Month 48: Efficacy and application strategies under different climatic conditions in greenhouses
Month 48: Economical evaluation of application strategies and market potential
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