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Soft Fruit growers tackle Western Flower Thrips (WFT)

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Leading UK soft fruit growers are benefiting from the implementation of an innovative cost saving Integrated Pest Management approach to bring Western Flower Thrips under control, leading to reduced damage and a significant increase in marketable fruits.

Four years of large scale trials combining the application of natural enemies (mainly the predatory mite Neoseiulus cucumeris) and Optiroll (Special Blue sticky rolls from Russell IPM) have proved highly effective in bringing Western Flower Thrips under control. The strategy has increased financial returns to strawberry growers with the added benefit of reducing pesticide use.

Grower, Simon Clark (Manor Farm) said “On farm trials took place in 2012 using the blue Opti rolls from Russell IPM. Since then I have used them routinely on ever bearer strawberries. Using the rolls, in conjunction with programmed applications of N. cucumeris throughout the season, has resulted in no fruit being lost to WFT damage.”

Tim Busby (Littywood Farm) said “Combining predators with traps has been very successful in controlling thrips.  We have had no crop loss due to thrips in newly planted fields and minimal loss at the end of the season on a replanted 2nd year field.  The cost of the programme is less than one weeks’ loss of production”.

Dr Clare Sampson, who has overseen the development and evaluation of the combined approach said, “Growers were losing entire crops to WFT. The combined use of predatory mites with sticky traps provides a robust control system, consistently giving better thrips control than either method alone, and much better control than chemical pesticides. Damage is caused by the active thrips stages, adults and larvae, feeding on strawberry flowers and fruit. The predatory mites feed on thrips larvae, while the traps catch adult thrips, so both the combined strategy gives the best protection against damage.

A full report of this research and work is in the March issue of ‘The Fruit Grower’ magazine.

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