By Thomas Grandperrin of UAV-IQ Precision Agriculture

Mating disruption is being used for a vast number of pests around the world. In the United States, and more specifically in the California-Pacific Northwest area, the primary mating disruption products used in nut systems are for navel orangeworm (NOW) and codling moth (a
walnut pest affecting apple and pear orchards).

Working on mating disruption and other biological control strategies is Emily Symmes an entomologist currently working as a senior manager of technical field services at Suterra, a puffer pheromone device that delivers the Suterra pheromone, with the chemistry to lower damage from Navel Orangeworm, Codling Moth, Oriental Fruit Moth, and other agricultural pests.

Prior to her work with Suterra, Symmes was an area integrated pest management (IPM) advisor in the Sacramento Valley as part of the University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension system. In addition, she served as the associate director of agriculture for the UC statewide IPM program, where she participated in their online pest management guidelines and coordination of their IPM advisors statewide.

While Symmes’s main focus during her career has been on the nut crops, namely almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, it increasingly spread to other systems for which both mating disruption and monitoring tools are used: grapes, citrus, pome, and stone fruits.

Symmes is focused on mating disruption in California orchards. And some advice on the use of insect traps and expressed her opinion on the future of augmentative biological control in nut cropping systems. Mating disruption, an increasingly popular tool in nut crops systems

Symmes expands on the principle of mating disruption, “The mode of action is to block the male’s ability to find the calling female. As a grower, you want to get the pheromones in the environment whenever that mating is active.

“You’re not going to have a knockdown effect like you would with a contact insecticide where you would expect your trap numbers to go way down the week following a spray because you’ve had this contact lethal impact. What you’re doing is blocking matings and you’ll see the impacts in the subsequent generations,” she said. “That’s how all mating disruption works, by reducing population growth rate, which in turn can also allow other inputs like insecticides and biological control to have a greater impact in preventing crop damage.”

Depending on the crops, orchard characteristics, and grower preferences, there are different “platforms” or ways that growers can get the mating disruption pheromone blends into the environment.

For growers and PCAs in the nut systems, aerosol-based Puffers are probably the most recognizable technology used to deploy the pheromones. We also have a microencapsulated sprayable formulation, which can be timed more specifically to certain insect flights and used throughout the year.

Then we’ve got dispensers that usually look like small cards and are hand applied. Depending on the pest, we have one or more available platforms. For example, for navel orangeworm, we have both an aerosol and a sprayable. For codling moth, we have an aerosol Puffer, a
sprayable, and a dispenser platform.

Mating disruption is a tool that should be used in a more holistic approach to farming which integrates multiple practices and techniques. Leveraging and preserving naturally occurring enemies (also called conservation biological control) or releasing commercially reared ones
(often called augmentative biological control) are some of those additional practices. “When it comes to the nut crops in recent history, practices have really centered around a conservation biological control approach,” said Symmes.

This starts by monitoring and identifying the biological control agents naturally occurring in the field and the impact they are having on their targeted pests. Then it is important to know how to preserve them by minimizing insecticide inputs, choosing selective chemistries, and applying them in a manner to minimize detrimental impacts on natural enemies.

UAV-IQ is helping organic and conventional growers implement biocontrol in an efficient and cost-effective manner by using drones to release beneficial insects exactly when and where they’re needed to suppress pests.

When trying to limit reliance on conventional pesticides, it is fundamental to take a more holistic approach and understand how to integrate all of the different tools available to develop a successful pest management program. Mating disruption is a proven technology that has gained a lot of popularity over the world in the past few years and is highly complementary to augmentative biological control.