Entomopathogenic nematodes for the control of the vine mealybug (Planococcus ficus) in South African wine and table grapes

Le Vieux, Patrique Dayne (2013-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Planococcus ficus (Signoret) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), the vine mealybug, is of economic importance to the wine and table grape (viticulture) industries, as it characteristically causes more damage than other mealybug species. Mealybug infestations contaminate grapes with their waxy secretions, egg-sacs and honeydew production, on which sooty mould grows, resulting in the fruit being unmarketable. Many export grapes are rejected, prior to shipment, as a result of infestations and phytosanitary concerns with regard to mealybug infestations. They are also vectors for various plant viruses. Up to date, the most common method of mealybug control in South Africa has been the use of chemical insecticides. Unfortunately, mealybugs are difficult to control chemically, due to their secretive/hidden lifestyle, where chemicals do not reach them. Of great concern is the ability of mealybugs to rapidly build up resistance to insecticides as well as the negative environmental effects associated with chemical pesticide use. Alternatively, entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs), belonging to the families Heterorhabditidae and Steinernematidae, have been identified as lethal insect pathogens and their insecticidal action, towards a variety of insect pests, has proven them to be valuable and effective biocontrol agents. Laboratory bio-assays, to determine the ability of eight different EPN isolates to infect and kill P. ficus, were conducted. Six of the isolates were indigenous species and the other two, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and Steinernema feltiae, were produced in Germany and are commercially available in South Africa. Planococcus ficus was highly susceptible to two indigenous species, Heterorhabditis zealandica and Steinernema yirgalemense; responsible for 96% ± 2% and 65% ± 10% mealybug mortalities, respectively. Biological studies illustrated that both H. zealandica and S. yirgalemense are able to complete their life cycles within adult female P. ficus. There was no significant difference in the pathogenicity of commercially produced H. bacteriophora, recycled through an insect host, and those from the formulated commercial product. However, commercially produced S. feltiae individuals, that were recycled through an insect host, were statistically more effective than those that were not. The LC50 and LC90 values for H. zealandica, in the current study, were 19 and 82 infective juveniles (IJs) respectively, which were similar to the LC50 and LC90 values for S. yirgalemense at 13 and 80, respectively. The LC50 and LC90, for commercially available H. bacteriophora, were greater than they were for both H. zealandica and S. yirgalemense, with values of 36 and 555, respectively. Such results indicate that there is a definite positive relationship which exists between the concentration of IJs of all three nematode species, used for inoculation, and the percentage mortality of P. ficus. Sand column tests resulted in S. yirgalemense outperforming H. zealandica significantly, with average mortalities of 95% ± 1.4% and 82% ± 4.1%, respectively. As a result S. yirgalemense was chosen for further studies in the field. IJs of commercially produced H. bacteriophora and S. feltiae were exposed to imidacloprid in laboratory bioassays to determine the effect on survival and infectivity. This study established the fact that these two EPN species can be applied, in combination with imidacloprid, in an integrated pest management scheme. Soil application field trials at Welgevallen and Nietvoorbij, using S. yirgalemense and mealybugs in Eppendorf tubes, buried 15 cm in the soil, resulted in 50% ± 10% and 52% ± 12% mealybug mortalities, respectively, when applying IJs at a concentration of 80 IJs/cm2. No significant difference was found between mealybug mortalities as a result of the three IJ concentrations applied (20, 40 and 80 IJs/cm2) for both vineyards. Persistence trials indicated that after four months post application, Cydia pomonella larval mortalities showed no significant reduction in infectivity on the Welgevallen vineyard, while on the Nietvoorbij vineyard there were no larval mortalities. Tests to establish whether or not S. yirgalemense and H. zealandica produced ant deterrent factors, showed no significant differences between the number of intact cadavers for both nematode species and for cadavers that were either four or six days old. There is, however, indication that deterrent factors may be in action in cadavers that were used six days after inoculation with 60% and 49% remaining intact for H. zealandica and S. yirgalemense infected cadavers respectively. All freeze killed cadavers were consumed by Linepithema humile (Mayr) (Argentine ant). The effects of low temperatures on EPN movement and infectivity were tested for H. zealandica and S. yirgalemense in the laboratory. The mortality of P. ficus at 14˚C, as opposed to 25˚C, for S. yirgalemense and H. zealandica were found to be 9.1% ± 2.6% and 2.5% ± 1.2% respectively. Vertical sand column tests were also conducted at 14˚C for S. yirgalemense and H. zealandica, which produced low mealybug mortalities of 3.5% ± 2.4% and 8.5% ± 1.4% respectively. This illustrates the low infectivity of the two local species at low temperatures. Laboratory persistence trials, conducted over a period of four months with S. yirgalemense, showed steady persistence of 100%, while H. zealandica had a statistically significant decrease of codling moth mortalities to 44% ± 5%. A three armed olfactometer was designed to establish if S. yirgalemense responds and moves towards chemical cues in the soil. A significant greater average number of IJs moved towards the grape vine roots (246 ± 0.124 IJs), than to the mealybugs (133 ± 0.168 IJs) and to the control (4 ± 1.02 IJs). This demonstrates that S. yirgalemense does actively seek out its hosts and that volatile cues produced by damaged grape vine roots, are more attractive to the EPN than cues produced by P. ficus. This study illustrates that S. yirgalemense has great potential as a biopesticide for controlling P. ficus in the soil of South African grape vineyards. Emphasis was placed on soil application of S. yirgalemense in the field, which produced good results, while laboratory tests indicate the potential for further aerial field application trials on grape vines. As the EPNs are not negatively affected by the agrochemical imidacloprid, the simultaneous use and combined action of both agents will potentially provide the farmer with excellent control against P. ficus. Further field- and aerial application studies will complement the current study and hopefully provide positive results for the efficient control of P. ficus found on grape vines.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Planococcus ficus (Signoret) (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), die wingerd witluis, is van groot ekonomiese belang vir die wyn en tafeldruif industrieë, aangesien dit kenmerkend meer skade veroorsaak as enige ander witluis spesies. Witluis infestasies besmet druiwe met hulle wasagtige afskeidings, eierssakke en heuningdou produksie, waarop swamme groei, wat tot gevolg het dat die druiwe onbemarkbaar is. Baie besendings druiwe, bestem vir uitvoer, word afgekeur weens witluis besmettings en ook as gevolg van fitosanitêre oorwegings. Hulle tree ook op as vektore van verskeie plantvirusse. Die mees algemene manier waarmee witluis in Suid-Afrika beheer word, is chemiese behandeling. Ongelukkig is witluis baie moeilik om chemies te beheer vanweë hulle verskuilde lewenswyse wat dit moeilik maak vir chemikalieë om hulle te bereik. Die vermoë van witluis om vinnig weerstand op te bou teen insekdoders, asook die negatiewe effek van chemiese middels op die omgewing, is kommerwekkend. Alternatiewelik, kan entomopatogeniese nematodes (EPNs) van die families Heterorhabditidae en Steinernematidae gebruik word vir die beheer van witluis. Hierdie nematodes is geïdentifiseer is as dodelike insek patogene, vir ʼn groot verskeidenheid van pes insekte en daar is bewys dat hulle as waardevolle en effektiewe biologiese beheer agente kan optree. Laboratorium biotoetse is gedoen om die vermoë van agt EPN isolate te evalueer om P. ficus te beheer. Ses van die EPN isolate is inheems, terwyl die ander twee, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora en Steinernema feltiae, in Duitsland produseer is en kommersieel beskikbaar is in Suid-Afrika. Planococcus ficus is hoogs vatbaar vir die twee inheemse EPN spesies, naamlik Heterorhabditis zealandica en Steinernema yirgalemense en hulle is verantwoordelik vir 96% ± 2% en 65% ± 10% van witluis mortaliteit. Biologiese studies het aangetoon dat beide H. zealandica en S. yirgalemense in staat is om hul lewensiklus te voltooi in volwasse wyfies van P. ficus. Daar is geen beduidende verskil gevind in die patogenisiteit van die geformuleerde kommersiële produk H. bacteriophora en dié wat in vivo geproduseer is nie. Daar is egter in die geval van S. feltiae, gevind dat die nematodes, wat in insekte produseer is, statisties beduidend meer effektief was, as dié wat kommersieel beskikbaar was. Die LC50 en die LC90 waardes van H. zealandica, in die huidige studie, was 19 en 82 infektiewe larwes (IJs), wat baie naby die LC50 en LC90 waarders van S. yirgalemense van 13 en 80 was. Die LC50 en LC90 vir die kommersieel beskikbare H. bacteriophora was groter as vir beide H. zealandica en S. yirgalemense, met waardes van 36 en 555 onderskeidelik. Hierdie resultate dui daarop dat daar ʼn positiewe verwantskap bestaan tussen die konsentrasie van die IJs van drie EPN spesies en die persentasie mortaliteit van P. ficus. Sand kolomtoetse dui daarop dat S. yirgalemense baie beter vaar as H. zealandica met gemiddelde mortaliteite van 95% ± 1.4% en 82% ± 4.1% onderskeidelik. Op grond van hierdie resultate is S. yirgalemense gebruik vir verdere veld studies. IJs van kommersieel geproduseerde H. bacteriophora en S. feltiae is in laboratorium biotoetse blootgestel aan imidacloprid om die effek op die oorlewing en infektiewe vermoë vas te stel. Hierdie studie het aangetoon dat die twee EPN spesies aangewend kan word saam met imidacloprid in ʼn geïntegreerde plaagbestuur opset. Grond aanwendings is in veld proewe by Welgevallen en Nietvoorbij gedoen deur gebruik te maak van S. yirgalemense en P. ficus volwasse wyfies in Eppendorf buisies, 15 cm in die grond begrawe, het albei 50% ± 10% en 52% ± 10% witluis mortaliteit, respektiewelik, tot gevolg gehad, met die toediening van nematodes teen ʼn konsentrasie van 80 IJs/cm2. Geen beduidende verskille is gevind tussen die witluismortaliteit en die resultate van die verskillende EPN konsentrasies (20, 40 en 80 IJs/cm2) wat op beide wingerde toegedien is nie. Oorlewings toetse het aangedui dat, drie maande na toediening, met Cydia pomonella as indikator, geen beduidende verskille in die infeksie potensiaal van die Welgevallen wingerd to gevolg gehad het nie, terwyl daar op die Nietvoorbij wingerd geen verdere larvale mortaliteit gevind is was nie. Toetse om vas te stel of S. yirgalemense en H. zealandica afkrikmiddels vir miere in besmette insek kadawers produseer het aangetoon dat daar geen beduidende verskil is tussen die getal kadawers wat intakt is vir beide EPN spesies en kadawers wat vier of ses dae oud is nie. Daar is egter aangetoon dat die afskrikmiddels wel ses dae na infeksie deur insek kadawers afgeskei word; aangesien 60% en 49% van die oorblywende kadawers nog volledig was toe dit geïnfekteer was met H. zealandica en S. yirgalemense, onderskeidelik. Al die insek kadawers, wat deur bevriesing doodgemaak is, was deur Linepithema humile (Mayr) (Argentynse mier) verorber.

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