Spider mite threat high for tomato crops this year

Tomato growers are being warned of the threat of an early attack from the glasshouse or two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus spp.) as temperature dials are turned up to establish protected crops.

Certis technical officer Alan Horgan warned growers that the pest risk was particularly high because last season was a bad year that saw high mite populations, which can survive and carry on into the coming season.

He said: "Not only is there a risk of infestation arising from existing pest populations, there is a further threat from newly introduced stock that may contain dormant pest populations, which are ready to infest the new crop."

Horgan added that as part of their integrated pest management programmes, growers can apply the biopesticide Majestik/Eradicoat (maltodextrin) at the first signs of a spider mite presence.

Maltodextrin is a fast-acting contact bio-pesticide made of natural plant extracts that immediately treats crops to prevent problems from escalating before biological controls become fully established.

"The physical mode of action of maltodextrin blocks the breathing holes of the pest, leading to suffocation, while also reducing their mobility by coating the insect's outer cuticle," he explained.

"December through to the early stages of the growing season is the most important time of the year for biological controls to be introduced. Getting it right is vital because it is often during this time when the success or failure of the biological control programme is determined for the whole season ahead."

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