January 2019 - 28

TOMATOES
Using predatory insects in high tunnels not so easy
By Brian Wallheimer
Purdue University
A Purdue University entomologist
suggests that high tunnel fruit and
vegetable growers carefully consider
species and tunnel construction when
using natural enemies to control pest
insect species.
Laura Ingwell, a postdoctoral
researcher in the Department of
Entomology, studies pest-control
methods in protected agricultural
systems. She's interested in
determining best practices for
fruit and vegetable growers using
high tunnels, which can extend
the growing season. Her previous
research has shown that high tunnels
can increase not only crop yield, but
also damaging pests.
In research published in the
journal Biological Control, Ingwell
tested augmentative biological
control, which employs predatory
insects that prey on crop pests.
Producers supplement natural
enemies in the environment with
commercially available predators. The
study sought to determine the best
way to retain the beneficial insects
Using beneficial insects can work in some scenarios, but getting the right balance is tricky. Photos: John Obermeyer/Purdue Extension
in the high tunnels, reducing their
dispersal to neighboring habitats.
Ingwell used small-opening, 0.18mm2
screens on a subset of tunnels
to test a variety of predatory insects,
including lady beetles, minute pirate
bugs, spined soldier bugs and green
lacewings on tomatoes and cucumbers.
Three times in the space of a week,
researchers collected and counted
the predators, but few had survived.
Meanwhile, crop pests thrived.
" We had a really low recapture rate
of all the predators that we used -
less than 10 percent, " Ingwell said.
" The screens did not work, which
really surprised us. "
Ingwell said the heat created by
the screens was the likely culprit. It
might have driven some to escape
through cracks and holes in screens
that are inevitable with high tunnels.
The heat, which reached average
maximum temperatures of 98 degrees,
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January 2019

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