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Study shows reduced-risk IPM program effectively manages pests and conserves beneficial predators

Multiyear studies comparing conventional pesticide use to reduced-risk pesticides in peach orchards have concluded that a program combining reduced-risk insecticides with an IPM program provides adequate control of pests and conserves insect predators.

David Biddinger, entomologist with Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues Timothy Leslie and Neelendra Joshi studied the effectiveness of insect control and environmental impact of standard and reduced-risk pest management practices on four farms in Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2004. After comparing the amount of pesticides used and the species of insects present after control, the team measured the impact of both programs on the beneficial insects. Experts use populations of beneficial insects to measure the environmental health of a farm. Their results were published in the June 2014 issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Peaches and apples are usually heavily beset by a variety of pests. Primary pests such as plum curculio, Oriental fruit moth, peachtree borer, scale and Japanese beetle attack peaches and apples. Organophosphates can control the major pests but often kill insect predators that take care of mites and aphids, which can damage fruit if they grow in numbers. However, recent studies have shown that organophosphates have negative health effects, so EPA has canceled several products that contain the ingredient.

In this study, researchers divided each of four orchards into two blocks. One block was treated with a standard insecticide program, using standard spray amounts, and the other block received a reduced-risk program, using many of the same insecticides in different amounts; organophosphates and carbamates were used sparingly in the reduced-risk program, while other products like pyrethroids, insect growth regulators and pheromones were used in greater amounts.

Over the three-year period, the researchers counted the number of insects by sucking them from the trees with a vacuum. Insects were divided into three groups: parasitoids, predators and pests. They were then further divided based on which block they came from.

The result: the reduced-risk program conserved more beneficial insects than and controlled a similar number of pest insects to the standard pest control program. The team found that natural enemy communities were influenced more by pest management practices than on location. Two pest species were found: tarnished plant bugs and stink bugs. The population of both was small (118 and 25, respectively), however, when compared to the number of braconid wasps (310), ants (572) and spiders (297). Numbers are totals from both locations.

As new data finds that some of the reduced-risk products have long-term sublethal effects on beneficial insects, however, the authors caution against simply switching from one pesticide to another. Rather, they suggest, ecologically based IPM systems that rely on selective pesticides and biological control agents may be the most beneficial in the end.

Source: Biddinger, D.J., Leslie, T.W., and Joshi, N.K. (2014). Reduced-risk pest management programs for eastern U.S. peach orchards: effects on arthropod predators, parasitoids and select pests. Journal of Economic Entomology, 107(3): 1084-1091. Retrieved 18 Nov. 2014 at http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1603/EC13441.

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