Pheromone traps defend strawberry crops against thrips

The use of blue pheromone traps in protected strawberry crops can significantly reduce numbers of western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), a Horticulture LINK project has found.

Researcher Clare Sampson of Keele University's Centre for Applied Entomology & Parasitology said losses to the insect cost the UK strawberry industry around £15m a year.

They are difficult to control because they rapidly reproduce, have many host plants and are difficult to target, she explained.

"They like to get right inside the flower," said Sampson. "It's difficult to get that penetration so spray methods are important. Spinosad is the best product but it is still not great."

Predators are also difficult to establish in cool temperatures so additional methods are needed, she added. But numbers were significantly reduced in four of seven sites where blue sticky pheromone traps were trialled.

A farm in Staffordshire saw thrip numbers reduced by 73 per cent and fruit bronzing from thrip damage cut by 68 per cent. Even without pheromones, the film rolls reduced thrip numbers by 61 per cent.

However, the traps were less effective when they were trialled early in the season and at sites where thrip numbers were already low. "They protect the main damage period of July to September," said Sampson.

The pheromone traps are not yet registered for commercial use.

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