Evaluation of Biopesticides to Manage Silverleaf Whitefly (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) in Tomatoes in Florida

Final report for GS18-184

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $16,500.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Florida A&M University
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Muhammad Haseeb
Center for Biological Control, College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Florida A&M University
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Project Information


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.


Project Objectives:

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.


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  • Dr. Jesusa Legaspi (Researcher)


Materials and methods:

Year 1-2: Tomato seeds were grown in the greenhouse in the Spring 2018 and 2019. The transplants were grown in the open field in the early May. Potted plant were developed and study on the biopesticides initiated. An MS student obtained training from the mentors and was able to search the relevant literature for the intended study. Now, he can identify the whiteflies and also diagnose the signs and symptoms of their infestation. In open field, observations were made on the monitoring of the whiteflies (mature and immature stages) and parasitoids on the yellow sticky cards. Also, we developed high quality images of whiteflies and their damage levels (in field and laboratory) and extension pest information commodity sheet was developed on the identification, damage, host plants, biology, ecology, and management for the stakeholders. The study findings were presented to growers and presented in the scientific meetings. 

Research results and discussion:

Outreach activities:

Grape Harvest Festival with the FAMU-Center for Viticulture and Small Fruits Research (Aug. 24, 2019); visitor tour and open house of USDA-ARS-CMAVE satellite laboratory (Apr. 3, 2019), AGRI - STEM CAMP, July 31, 2019 – USDA, ARS, CMAVE / CBC-CAFS-FAMU, Tallahassee, FL and the annual CBC advisory committee meeting, FAMU, Tallahassee, FL, Dec. 5, 2019.

Presented invited talk on “Conservation Biological Control of Insect Pests” at the 2019 Vineyard Management, IPM and Pesticide Safety Workshop, Feb 13, 2019, FAMU, Tallahassee, FL; and “Sustainable management of insect pests: plant-mediated “push-pull” technology”, Organic Horticulture class, University of Florida (remote presentation), Jan. 17, 2020, Gainesville, FL.

Turkey Hill and Orchard Pond and Full Earth organic farm owners and grower visits, June 18, 21, and October 11, 2019 respectively, Tallahassee, FL.


Peer-reviewed journal:

Legaspi, J.C., Miller, N.W., Kanga, L.H., Haseeb, M., Zanuncio, J.C. 2020. "Attract and reward” for syrphid flies using methyl salicylate and sweet alyssum in kale in north Florida. Subtropical Agriculture and Environments. 71:49-52.

Book chapter:

Legaspi, J. C., L.H. B. Kanga, M. Haseeb, A.M. Simmons. 2020. Assessing the current status of “push-pull” technology in worldwide agriculture and forestry. IGI Global Publisher. (Submitted December 2019)


USDA-ARS Infographic on J. C. Legaspi’s work on companion planting -   https://tellus.ars.usda.gov/stories/articles/pairing-up-plants/

Silverleaf Whitefly, Bemisia argentifolii (Homoptera: Aleyrodidae). Muhammad Haseeb, Jermaine Perier, Tashani Brown, Jesusa C. Legaspi and Lambert Kanga. Commodity-based pest insect info. revised 2019. 2 pages. 



Participation Summary
47 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
2 On-farm demonstrations
1 Published press articles, newsletters
2 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days
1 Other educational activities: Training one BS intern on the cultivation of tomatoes and identification of whiteflies.

Participation Summary:

47 Farmers participated
14 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:
  1. Haseeb et al. 2019. An oral talk presented on the IPM of vegetable crops in north Florida during the annual Vineyard Management, IPM and Pesticide Safety Workshop (February 13), held in Leon County, Florida. 
  2. Haseeb et al. 2019. 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. 
  3. Haseeb, M. 2019. Integrated pest management in alternative crop production systems. Oral talk presented in the alternative crops enterprise workshop. FAMU Cooperative Extension, held in Quincy, FL (30 April 2019).
  4. Haseeb, M., J.C. Legaspi and L. Kanga. 2019. Conservation of biological control agents in vegetable crops in north Florida. Poster presented in the Virtual Symposium of the International Branch of the Entomological Society of America. Biological Control Session. April 8-10 (online).

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

An MS student graduated and enrolled in UGA for his Ph.D. study. 
One extension and one research publication published.
Four oral presentations were presented in the annual and semi-annual meetings. 
Organize field days & workshops and training were provided to several stakeholders and clientele. 

Knowledge Gained:

Identification of whiteflies adult and immature stages. Learned signs and symptoms of whiteflies. New knowledge and skills gained to grow tomatoes in the greenhouses. 


“Attract and reward” is an ecologically-based pest management technique for improving biological control. A predator attractant, such as an herbivore-induced plant volatile (HIPV) is used to “attract” the biological control. The predator is sustained and nourished by an insectary plant which acts as a “reward”. The “attract” and “reward” effects are expected to act synergistically in enhancing the effectiveness of the predator. We tested methyl salicylate (MeSA) to attract hoverflies, and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima L. Desv. (Bassicales: Brassicaceae)) to reward them in kale and broccoli fields in north Florida. These results helps to conserve beneficial species of the whitefly. 

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.