Novel biological approach to combat a new glasshouse pest

Organisation: Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University
Grant Number: A17022
Grant Amount: $86,500
Grant Type: Agribusiness Innovation Grant

This project aimed to develop a novel biological control for the tomato-potato psyllid (TPP), and reduce the significant losses caused by this sap-sucking, disease-transmitting insect in New Zealand glasshouses. This new approach should limit pesticide use, thereby protecting the environment and growers, and helping the industry attain its goal of increased productivity while minimising pesticide use.

Postdoc, Shola Olaniyan, supervised by Professor Steve Wratten, conducted experiments on caged tomato plants to evaluate four natural enemies (“good bugs”) that kill TPP. The most effective was an introduced parasitic wasp Tamarixia triozae, females of which eat young TPP nymphs and lay eggs in older ones. The egg hatches into a larva, which feeds inside the nymph and kills it. The larva moults into an adult that chews its way out of the dead nymph. Nectar from buckwheat flowers increased the longevity of Tamarixia, and they produced a pamphlet for growers describing how to use this wasp for TPP biocontrol in glasshouses.

The project featured in Episode 10 of Rural Delivery on TVNZ1 and enabled them to establish strong links with industry partners, Tomatoes NZ and Vegetables NZ that funded travel to researcher-grower workshops and glasshouse visits. This partnership led to the first ever PhD award by Tomatoes NZ of NZ$148,000 for further TPP biocontrol research at Lincoln University. The PhD candidate, Emiliano Veronesi met with the Board of Tomatoes NZ and visited commercial glasshouses in Christchurch and Auckland to improve his understanding of the problem. He has begun work on a predatory bug with potential for managing TPP and greenhouse whitefly in tomato and possibly, potato crops, and he will investigate possible synergies between Tamarixia and other species of good bugs with added floral resources for better TPP control.

“AGMARDT funding has brought us a step closer to reducing pesticide use against tomato-potato psyllid in glasshouses and helped to strengthen links between science and industry. The Trust’s positive and prompt response when we sought changes to our original proposal for improved effectiveness is commendable”.  Steve Wratten (Distinguished Professor of Ecology, BPRC, Lincoln University) & Shola Olaniyan (Post-doctoral fellow, BPRC, Lincoln University).