Biological control of the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae Koch (Acari : tetranychidae).
Gatarayiha, Mutimura Celestin.
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The two-spotted spider mite (TSM), Tetranychus urticae Koch, is an important pest of many greenhouse and field crops worldwide. The development of resistance in TSM populations to chemical acaricides, allied with public health concerns about pesticide residues, has motivated the search for alternative control measures to suppress the pest. Hyphomycetous fungi are promising agents for mite control and the fungus Beauveria bassiana (Bb) (Balsamo) Vuillemin was investigated in this study as a biocontrol agent. The principal objectives of this study comprised: a) screening Bb strains for their pathogenicity against T. urticae; b) testing the effect of adjuvants on the efficacy of Bb; c) studying the effect of plant type on persistence of Bb and the efficacy of control of Bb against T. urticae; d) evaluating the field efficacy of Bb applications against T. urticae; e) testing the compatibility of Bb with selected fungicides; and f) assessing the synergy between Bb and soluble silicon for T. urticae control. Screening bioassays of sixty-two strains of Bb identified the two most effective strains, PPRI 7315 (R289) and PPRI 7861 (R444), that caused mortality levels of more than 80% of adult mites at 9 d post-inoculation with 2 × 108 conidia ml-1. These strains performed significantly better than the Bb commercial strain PPRI 5339, in laboratory bioassays. The two strains also attacked mite eggs, causing 53.4% and 55.5% reduction in egg hatchability at 2 × 108 conidia ml-1 respectively. However, PPRI 7861 showed relatively higher production of conidia in culture and was, therefore, selected for further trials under greenhouse and field conditions. Greenhouse evaluations of the effects of two adjuvants (Break-thru® and a paraffin oil-based emulsion) on efficacy of Bb demonstrated a higher efficacy of the biocontrol agent (BCA) when it was applied with Break-thru® or the oil solution than with water alone. Moreover, Bb conidia applied in Break-thru® solution resulted in greater control of TSM than conidia applied in the mineral oil. There was also a dose-response effect and the control of TSM by Bb increased when the concentration of conidia was increased. The control of TSM by Bb in beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L), cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), eggplant (Solanum melongena L.), maize (Zea mays L.) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) was tested in greenhouse trials. On these crops, the persistence of conidia declined over time. The rate of decline was significantly higher on maize. However, TSM mortality was positively correlated with the amount of conidia deposited on leaves immediately after spraying, rather than their persistence over time. Higher levels of mortality of TSM due to Bb application were observed on beans, cucumber and eggplants, suggesting that the type of crop must be taken into consideration when Bb is applied as a BCA. Field efficacy of Bb against mites was evaluated in two trials on eggplants. Based on assessment of population densities of mites and leaf damage assessments; both trials showed that the strain PPRI 7861 controlled TSM in the field. Two commonly used fungicides, azoxystrobin and flutriafol, were investigated in vitro tests on culture medium and laboratory bioassays on detached bean leaves (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) for their effects on Bb. Azoxystrobin (a strobilurin) was less harmful to Bb while flutriafol was found to be inhibitory. Another important finding of this study was the substantial enhancement of Bb efficacy by soluble silicon. When Bb was combined with soluble Si, the control of TSM was better than when either of the two products was applied alone. Moreover, application of soluble Si as a plant fertilizer in hydroponic water nutrient increased accumulation of peroxidase, polyphenoloxidase and phenylalanine ammonia-lyase enzymes in leaves of plants infested with TSM. Increased activity of these defense enzymes in leaves deters feeding behaviour of mites. We suggested that feeding stress renders them susceptible to Bb infection, which would explain the synergy observed between the two agents.
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