The role of entomopathogenic fungi in the control of citrus pests in South Africa: cause for optimism


Abstract: Citrus is a highly productive crop in South Africa, but it is damaged by a number of pests that result in yield loss and have the potential to limit market access. Maximum residue limits (MRLs) imposed by importing countries have driven the need for alternative control technologies, including the use of entomopathogenic fungi (EPF). Bioprospecting in citrus orchards and seven years of bioassay trials identified Beauveria bassiana G Ar 17 B3 and Metarhizium anisopliae G 11 3 L6 and FCM Ar 23 B3 as the most virulent fungal isolates. Preliminary trials with these three fungi against the arboreal pests, California red scale, Aonidiella aurantii (Maskell), citrus mealybug, Planococcus citri (Risso) and citrus thrips, Scirtothrips aurantii Faure, have been promising. False codling moth (FCM), Thaumatotibia leucotreta (Meyrick) is the most important citrus pest in South Africa and while considerable research has been conducted on controlling the insect on the tree, the soil borne stages of this insect have largely been ignored. After laboratory bioassays, the three fungal isolates were taken to field trials. All three isolates persisted for at least six months after application to the soil. A large scale field trial, showed that although all three isolates reduced FCM infestation, isolate B. bassiana G Ar 17 B3 performed best, recording a consistent 80% reduction in FCM infestation throughout the trial period. The results of nearly 10 years of research on the potential of EPFs in the control of citrus pests in South Africa are certainly cause for optimism.

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