Biological controls show promise against three key blackcurrant pests

The Horticultural Development Company has revealed promising preliminary results on alternative biological controls of pests and diseases of blackcurrant - specifically, Botrytis cinerea, blackcurrant leaf midge and sawfly.

In its five-year project HL 001105, it has made the incidental finding in field trials that providing bumblebee nest boxes increases both yield and fruit size of two varieties - Ben Hope and Ben Gairn.

But according to the report: "More replication is needed to ascertain whether Bombus-pollinated crops are less susceptible to Botrytis."

As for blackcurrant leaf midge, three conventional broad-spectrum insecticides were found to give a high level of control. But the report urged the development of alternative programmes to exploit the midge's natural enemies. Disrupting its mating through pheromones also shows potential, the report added.

Hopes of developing an effective monitoring trap for blackcurrant sawfly remain, but so far researchers have failed to pinpoint a suitable pheromone for the purpose.

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