Chapter 11

Insect Pest Management for Organic Crops

Pheromones

The National Materials List at § 205.601(f) allows for the use of synthetic pheromones for mating disruption of insect pests. Pheromones target the reproductive life stage (the adult), thus preventing the development of the damaging life stage. Pheromones used in mating disruption are species-specific and are thus highly selective. Typically, only the primary target species responds to the pheromone, and non-target effects on biological control agents within a field or outside of a cropping system are not observed. They are generally non-toxic and will not control other pests. Additional benefits include reduced worker re-entry or pre-harvest intervals and limited impacts on other management practices, such as irrigation scheduling. Pheromone-based mating disruption has also been identified as a strong tool for managing insecticide resistance. The use of pheromones against key pests does not result in outbreaks of secondary pests or pest resurgence.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Insect Pheromones

Some of the advantages in using insect pheromones include their high species specificity and relatively low toxicity. Sex pheromones tend to be specific to a particular insect species or even strain of insect, making them one of the most targeted pest management strategies. This specificity thus maintains an ecological balance by leaving undisturbed populations of other insect species and non-target organisms.

Traps Used for Mating Disruption

A variety of dispensing technologies has shown promise and success under commercial conditions each of which varies in terms of ease of application, cost and the mechanism of disruption.

Microencapsulated Pheromones

Microencapsulated pheromones (MECs) are small droplets of pheromone enclosed within a polymer capsule, which controls the pheromone release rate. The capsules are small enough to be applied as suspensions with the same commercial equipment used to spray insecticides.

Hand-applied Dispensers

Hand-applied dispensers include systems with an impermeable reservoir fitted with a permeable membrane for regulating pheromone release, and analogous laminate dispensers that consist of a central pheromone-containing core sandwiched between two polymer films. These dispensers can be cut into various shapes and sizes ranging from larger, hand-applied dispensers to smaller, confetti-like flakes that can be applied by specialized ground or air applicators.

Hollow Fibers

Hollow fibers have been employed since the 1970s in mating disruption programs. The fibers consist of a short, impermeable plastic tube that is sealed at one end and filled with pheromone.

High-emission Dispensers

High-emission dispensers were developed to emit larger quantities of pheromone and use fewer dispensers per acre to cut down on labor costs.

Current Uses to Control Insects with Pheromones

Pheromone-based devices have achieved the successful control of insect pests in almost all types of agriculture, including perennial orchards, vineyards, annual vegetables, and fiber crops. The following five insect pests have enjoyed historical and recent successes with pheromone-based management systems.

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