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Wasp eats insects in cotton crop battle - CSD

Jan '07
Australian cotton growers are making major progress in replacing costly and environmentally harmful pesticides with beneficial insects to control Helicoverpa, the major pest of cotton.

Trichogramma pretiosum, introduced originally from Kununurra, which is now widely established on the Darling Downs and elsewhere in eastern Australia, has been an incredible success in achieving high levels of parasitism of helicoverpa eggs in cotton crops.

However, on the weekly CSD Web video, Dr David Murray (DPIF) and Dr Andrew Davies (NT Department of Business, Industry and Resource Development/Cotton CRC) warned that the level of egg parasitism, which is highest in January, can be disrupted by careless use of insecticide sprays.

Dr Murray, an entomologist with QDPIF based on the Darling Downs, listed three well-known pesticides as potentially harmful to trichogramma.

“Rescue (Chlorpyrifos- methyl) is one that has a profound affect on them throughout their life. Pyrethroids also have a strong contact and residual action."

“A third product is Tracer (Spinosad). It too appears to be quite disruptive in terms of contact toxicity and the residual toxicity from the product,” Dr Murray said.

Trichogramma wasps might develop within a helicoverpa egg, but as they are chewing their way out of the egg they pick up a lethal dose of chemical and that's enough to kill them and trap them or they die chewing their way out of the egg.

Andrew Davies, who recently completed a PhD with the Australian Cotton CRC and CRDC investigating the ecology of trichogramma in the Ord River irrigation area, has foreshadowed the development of an integrated pest management program involving trichogramma.

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