Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in tomato crops
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is of importance in tomato cultivation. Tomatoes are exceptionally susceptible to a range of formidable pests, including aphids, leafminers, mealybugs, caterpillars, plant bugs, spider mites and other pest mites, thrips, and whiteflies, which can swiftly devastate entire fields if left unchecked. Concurrently, bacterial and fungal diseases pose a continuous threat to tomato plants, potentially decimating yields. In this intricate and delicate dance between cultivation and nature's challenges, IPM emerges as a critical strategy. This approach combines various eco-friendly techniques to manage pests and diseases effectively while minimizing the use of synthetic chemical pesticides. By employing practices such as biological control, crop rotation, and careful monitoring, IPM not only preserves the health of tomato crops but also contributes to sustainable and environmentally responsible agriculture. In this context, we will explore the multifaceted importance of IPM alongside biological crop protection and bumblebee pollination in ensuring the resilience and productivity of tomato crops.
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Pests in tomato
Aphids pose a significant threat to tomato crops, with various species causing notable damage. The most common species on tomato are the Glasshouse potato aphid or Foxglove aphid (Aulacorthum solani) and the Potato aphid (Macrosiphum euphorbiae). To a lesser extent also the Peach potato aphid (Myzus persicae) and the Cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii) can be found in tomato. The Glasshouse potato aphid (Aulacorthum solani) has a particular affinity for tomato plants and can stunt their growth by extracting sap from the leaves and stems. Additionally, the Potato aphid (Macrosiphum euphorbiae) can cause distorted growth and leaf curling, aphids can transmit various viruses such as Potyvirus (potato virus Y) which can devastate tomato crops.
Leaf miners are a challenge to tomato crops, and several species stand out as significant pests. Tomato leaf miner (Liriomyza bryoniae), Pea leaf miner (Liriomyza huidobrensis), and American serpentine leaf miner (Liriomyza trifolii) are among the most notorious leaf miner species affecting tomatoes. These tiny insects lay their eggs in tomato leaves, and the larvae that hatch proceed to tunnel through the leaf tissue, creating distinctive winding mines that can severely damage the foliage. As a result, the plant's ability to photosynthesize and produce energy is compromised, leading to reduced yields and overall weakened tomato plants.
In some cases, mealybugs, and in particular the obscure mealybug (Pseudococcus viburni) can be a problem in tomato. These small, soft-bodied insects can be found mostly on the stems where they feed on the sap of tomato plants, causing stunted growth and yellowing of the leaves. Their waxy, cotton-like appearance makes them easily recognizable on the plant surfaces. Mealybug infestations can weaken tomato plants, reducing their ability to produce healthy fruits and impacting overall yields.
Caterpillars pose a significant threat to tomato crops, with several notorious species causing substantial damage. The tomato leaf miner moth (Tuta absoluta) is an increasing problem worldwide, it is devouring tomato foliage and inflicting significant harm to the entire plant. The Tomato looper (Chrysodeixis chalcites) feeds voraciously on tomato leaves, leading to defoliation and reduced plant vigour. The Tomato moth (Lacanobia oleracea) can cause both leaf and fruit damage, further exacerbating the yield loss. The Cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and the Beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) also target tomatoes and can cause extensive fruit damage, leading to economic losses for growers. Tomato pinworm (Keiferia lycopersicella) is another formidable pest, tunnelling into tomato fruits making them susceptible to secondary infections.
Two-spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) pose a significant threat in tomato crops. This notorious mite feeds on tomato plants by piercing the plant cells and extracting sap, leading to stippling, yellowing, and ultimately, reduced photosynthesis. These mites are particularly problematic in hot and dry conditions, and their rapid reproduction can result in widespread infestations that weaken tomato plants and hinder fruit production.
Thrips are notorious pests on tomato crops, especially Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis). These tiny insects feed on the tender parts of tomato plants, including leaves, stems, and fruits, causing stippling, discoloration, and distortion of the plant tissues. Thrips have piercing-sucking mouthparts that enable them to extract plant fluids, leading to reduced plant vigour and diminished fruit quality. On the fruit thrips feeding causes 'ghost rings’. Moreover, thrips can also transmit certain plant viruses, exacerbating the damage and posing further threats to tomato crops.
Whiteflies can be highly problematic in tomato crops, with two notable species of concern being Tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and Greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum). These small, winged insects feed on tomato plants by piercing the phloem and extracting sap, leading to yellowing, wilting, and reduced plant vigour. Whitefly infestations can cause significant damage, hinder fruit development, and ultimately impact tomato yields. Furthermore, whiteflies are known to secrete honeydew, promoting the growth of sooty mold that further interferes with photosynthesis.
In certain cases, plant bugs can be a concern in tomato crops, in particular the species Nezara viridula, Nesidiocoris tenuis and Engytatus modestus. The green stink bug (Nezara viridula) can be a major pest, piercing tomato fruits and sucking out their juices, leading to fruit deformation and reduced quality The tomato bugs Nesidiocoris tenuis and Engytatus modestus are beneficial predators that feeds on various pests, including whiteflies, thrips and small caterpillars, making it a valuable ally in integrated pest management strategies. However, they can become a problem if their density becomes too high, as they may then feed on tomato fruits, causing damage.
Other pest mites
Tomato russet mite (Aculops lycopersici) can be a severe problem in tomato. These tiny mites feed on tomato leaves and stems. Affected areas turn a rusty brown colour, leaves becoming slightly curved with a silvery shine on the underside. Considerable damage can occur at high density when eventually fruits will also be affected, and leaves dry out quickly. Damage is first seen on the lower parts of the plants and moves upwards when mites ascend.
Biological pest control in tomato
Biological pest control of aphids in tomato crops can be effectively achieved by employing a diverse range of beneficial organisms. Several biocontrol agents have shown efficacy in controlling aphid populations. These agents include the gall midge Aphidoletes aphidymyza (Aphidend), and the parasitic wasps Aphelinus abdominalis (Aphilin), Aphidius colemani (Aphipar), and Aphidius ervi (Ervipar). Furthermore, Lecanicillium muscarium Ve6 (Mycotal), an entomopathogenic fungus, can be deployed as a biological control agent to naturally regulate aphid populations. The integration of these biocontrol measures promotes a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to managing aphids in tomato crops.
Leaf miner control
Several biocontrol agents have proven to be beneficial in suppressing leaf miner populations in tomato crops. The parasitic wasps Diglyphus isaea (Miglyphus) and Dacnusa sibirica (Minusa), are effective natural enemies of leaf miner larvae. Additionally, Steinernema feltiae (Entonem), a beneficial nematode can contribute to the reduction of leaf miner larvae, when applied on the leaves of the tomato plant.
Macrolophus pygmaeus (Mirical) is not only the base for whitefly management in tomato, but also for caterpillar management, especially in the case of Tuta absoluta. Several beneficial nematodes have also shown promising results in controlling caterpillar populations. Steinernema feltiae (Entonem) and Steinernema carpocapsae (Capsanem) are both beneficial nematode species that infect and kill caterpillar larvae. These nematodes work by entering the caterpillar's body, releasing bacteria, and causing a fatal infection. By utilizing these beneficial nematodes, tomato growers can significantly reduce caterpillar infestations without resorting to harmful chemical pesticides.
Spider mite and mite control
Biological pest control of spider mites and other mites in tomato crops offers an effective and environmentally friendly method to manage these pests. Several beneficial predators have proven successful in controlling mite populations. Phytoseiulus persimilis (Spidex, Spidex Boost, Spidex Vital), a well-known predatory mite, is highly specialized in targeting spider mites, thus offering targeted and efficient pest control. Macrolophus pygmaeus (Mirical-N), a predatory mirid bug, is known to feed on spider mites, providing effective control. Feltiella acarisuga (Spidend), a predatory gall midge, is also effective in reducing mite populations. By incorporating these biocontrol agents into their integrated pest management practices, tomato growers can significantly suppress mite infestations.
Biological pest control of thrips in tomato crops presents a sustainable approach to managing these troublesome pests. Macrolophus pygmaeus (Mirical) and Nesidiocoris tenuis (Nesibug) contribute to the control of thrips. Additionally, Lecanicillium muscarium Ve6 (Mycotal) can be applied. By integrating these biocontrol agents into their pest management strategies, tomato growers can achieve efficient thrip control, leading to healthier tomato crops without relying on harmful chemical pesticides.
Biological pest control is an effective and environmentally friendly approach to combat whitefly infestations in tomato crops. Various beneficial organisms are employed as biocontrol agents to naturally regulate whitefly populations. Eretmocerus eremicus (Ercal, Enermix), and Encarsia formosa (En-Strip, Enermix) are key solutions that specifically target whiteflies at different life stages. Encarsia formosa and Eretmocerus eremicus are parasitic wasps that lay their eggs inside whitefly nymphs, effectively halting their development. Macrolophus pygmaeus (Miciral) and Nesidiocoris tenuis (Nesibug) are predatory bugs that actively feed on whitefly eggs and nymphs, suppressing their populations. Lecanicillium muscarium Ve6 (Mycotal), a beneficial fungus, can be applied as a biopesticide to infect and kill whiteflies. Additionally Rollertrap is effective for mass trapping of adult whiteflies. By integrating these solutions into the pest management strategy, tomato growers can minimize whitefly damage and decrease the reliance on chemical pesticides.
Plant bug control
Effective control of plant bugs in tomato crops is vital to ensure healthy yields. These pests, known for their ability to cause damage by piercing and feeding on plant tissues, can be controlled using various strategies. Integrated pest management techniques such as cultural practices, biological controls, and targeted insecticides can help mitigate plant bug populations. Trissolcus basalis (Nezapar) can be applied for the management of Nezara viridula.
Efficiently controlling psyllid infestations in tomato crops is crucial for preserving crop health and yield. Psyllids, notorious for transmitting harmful plant diseases, require targeted control strategies. Employing integrated pest management practices, growers can adopt a multi-faceted approach. Monitoring psyllid populations through regular field assessments enables timely intervention
Pest monitoring in tomato crops
Pest monitoring is a cornerstone of successful pest management in tomato crops. Through consistent field scouting, growers can identify the presence and density of pest populations, enabling them to respond promptly and precisely. Diverse monitoring techniques come into play, encompassing visual examinations and the deployment of trapping systems.
Visual inspections encompass the careful observation of plants for indications of pest-induced harm or the actual presence of pests. Meanwhile, sticky traps such as Horiver or Rollertrap are effective in trapping flying pests and insect traps such as Deltatrap and Tutasan in combination with luring substances such as Pherodis prove effectiveness in luring and capturing specific pests.
Scouting entails a systematic assessment of the crop, wherein pest infestations are catalogued, and pertinent data (as facilitated by tools like Natutec Scout) are documented. By maintaining a consistent watch on pest activities, growers are empowered to make educated choices regarding the implementation of pest control tactics, optimizing resource utilization, and diminishing the likelihood of crop harm.
Furthermore, pest scouting serves to promptly identify pest threats, thus enabling swift intervention and the prevention of potential outbreaks. Regular and comprehensive pest monitoring stands as a central element of IPM in tomato cultivation, assisting growers in upholding robust crops and attaining peak yields.
Tomato crops can be susceptible to various diseases, including bacterial diseases, caused by pathogens such as Clavibacter michiganensis. These pathogens can cause significant damage to the plants, leading to reduced yields and quality. Additionally, fungal diseases, such as Anthracnose, Botrytis, Fusarium, Phytophthora, Powdery mildew and Pythium, pose serious threats to tomato cultivation. These fungal infections can spread rapidly under favourable conditions and impact the overall health of the crop. Furthermore, viruses can also infect tomato plants, causing stunted growth, yellowing, and deformation of leaves and fruits.
Biological control of tomato diseases
Disease management in tomato crops requires preventive measures to mitigate the impact of these diseases and ensure a successful tomato harvest. Bio-fungicides such as Trianum-P and Trianum-G protect the tomato plants against several soil-borne root diseases and the botanical fungicide Nopath can be used to cure fungal diseases in various parts of the plants. The biological elicitor V10 can be used to protect plants against virulent strains of Pepino mosaic virus.
Pollination of tomato crops
Pollination plays a crucial role in the successful cultivation of tomato crops, enhancing fruit development and overall yield. In protected tomato crops sufficient pollinators are often lacking and therefore need to be compensated with the release of managed pollinators. Due to their structure tomato flowers are not easily pollinated by honeybees, but bumblebees are the perfect fit for effective pollination of the crop. Adequate pollination ensures that the ovaries in the flowers are fertilized with pollen, leading to the formation of healthy fruits. To encourage pollination in tomato crops, growers need to create pollinator-friendly environments, encouraging them to shift from the use of pesticides harmful to bees, to pollinator friendly biological control solutions. Proper pollination not only improves the quantity but also the quality of tomatoes, contributing to sustainable agriculture practices and ensuring a bountiful harvest.