Florida ranks first in production of fresh market tomatoes. Per acre tomato production cost in Florida often exceeds $16,000 in large part due to the high cost of pest management. Survey results have consistently ranked whiteflies as the most serious insect pest influencing tomato production. The silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci Gennadius, Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) is a serious pest of tomatoes in Florida. The pest was reported in Florida as early as 1900 by Quaintance. The invasion of a new biotype or species in 1986, named successively “biotype B”, Bemisia argentifolii, and more recently, the Q-biotype or Mediterranean whitefly was identified. This marks the first time the Q-biotype of B. tabaci has been found outside a greenhouse or nursery in the United States.
In 2016, Q-biotype whitefly expanded to eight Florida counties. The pest feeds both in the immature and adult stages by sucking plant juices, generally on the underside of leaves. Indeed, the pest poses serious threats through the plant viruses it transmits and resistance to insecticides is of grave concern to tomato growers and industry. Therefore, tomato growers in the Sunshine State urgently need sustainable solutions to control this invasive pest.
After evaluation and testing of bio-based pesticides and organic oils, recommendations will be provided to growers for the effective and less costly options to control white flies in conventional and organic tomato production in Florida.
Objective 1: Determine effectiveness of selected biopesticides (organic oils) to manage whiteflies and viral diseases in tomatoes.
Objective 2: Provide sustainable solutions to tomato growers and increase their crop productivity and profitability.
Year 1 (Quarter 1): Tomato seeds were grown in the greenhouse in the March. When ready, the transplants will be grown in the open field in the early May 2019. Potted plant will be developed and study on the biopesticides will be conducted. An MS student is learning from the mentors and currently working in the greenhouses and searching the literature for the intended study. He can identify the whiteflies and also diagnose the signs and symptoms of their infestation. In open field, the student will be monitoring the whiteflies (mature and immature stages). Also, we are developing high quality images of whiteflies and their damage levels (in field and laboratory) to produce an extension pest information commodity sheet on the identification, damage, host plants, biology, ecology, and management for the stakeholders.
Educational & Outreach Activities
- An oral talk presented on the IPM of vegetable crops in north Florida during the 2019 Vineyard Management, IPM and Pesticide Safety Workshop (February 13), held in Leon County, Florida.
- An oral talk presented on the developing and implementing pest management strategies for invasive pest insects in small fruits and vegetable crops in north Florida during the 19th Biennial Symposium of the Association of Research Directors (March 30-April 3, 2019), held in Jacksonville, Florida.
Identification of whiteflies adult and immature stages. Learned signs and symptoms of whiteflies. New knowledge and skills gained to grow tomatoes in the greenhouses.