- Fruits: figs, general tree fruits
- Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, physical control
Ivan’s Fig Farm has successfully grown figs under the very challenging cold winter conditions in Missouri, by designing and using a passive geothermal/solar system, which protects the vulnerable fig trees from freezing as well as extending the harvest season by several months. The farm has scaled up the fig production to meet the high demand of the local market.
The fig operation has stumbled upon an unexpected pest problem, a heavy infestation of mealy bugs, which is especially injurious during the fall/winter extension of the growing season. The mealy bug infestation has a tremendous detrimental impact on the quality and quantity of the fig crop, which then leads to loss of revenue and market insufficiency.
That is why it is very important to solve this problem and overcome the devastating effect of the mealy bug invasion. This will benefit other farmers that are growing figs in high tunnels. Some of them have already contacted me to share their problems with the mealy bug infestation.
Research of the literature indicated the difficulties associated with the treatment of mealy bugs, due to their unique waxy cover and lack of chitinous exoskeleton, which makes them resistant to pesticide treatment. Since I grow the figs organically, I cannot use any synthetic pesticides. I tried several organic insecticides like neem oil, without any significant impact.
In my farther attempt to resolve the problem I asked Dr. Jaime Pinero, Assistant Professor, State IPM Specialist, Lincoln University. We discussed the problem and he proposed to use the beneficial insect “mealy bug destroyer”. We initiated some preliminary testing. However it was getting late into the fig season. The low night temperatures and the infestation that had exploded indicated that it will require tremendous amounts of beneficial insects, which made the task overwhelming and practically impossible.
Therefore I have decided to pursue the testing of this approach by starting early in the season, when the first signs of mealy bugs appear (end of August, beginning of September) and then release the beneficial bugs. This way there will be less bugs needed to control the mealy bugs and the treatment will be more efficient and economical. I would also try to research the possibility to create conditions favorable for the beneficial insects to reproduce and multiply inside the high tunnels, with the help of an entomologist. All experiments with the mealy bug destroyers will be performed in conjunction with control of temperature and humidity. using fans and ridge vents with thermostats.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Benefit farmers that are growing figs in high tunnels by demonstrating integrated pest management of mealy bugs,using beneficial “Mealy bug Destroyer” insect (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri).
- Benefit the environment by establishing a method of pest management that does not require use of harmful chemical pesticides.
- Share project results through farm tours and schemes and diagrams online.