Minimizing plant damage through selected Nesidiocoris tenuis

RP10 Minimizing plant damage through selected Nesidiocoris tenuis

This project will investigate zoophytophagous plant bugs that damage plants when host prey numbers are limited. Plant damage is currently limiting the widespread use of these bugs as biocontrol agents and we will determine the metabolite cause of the plant damage and through artificial selection produce natural enemy strains that reduce plant damage.

In the last decade, biological control programs for greenhouse tomatoes and other crops have been successfully implemented using zoophytophagous plant bugs (Miridae), which can feed on both plant tissues and insect prey. Among the different mirid bugs that can be found naturally feeding on tomato plants, the cosmopolitan Nesidiocoris tenuis has been extremely effective in controlling the invasive South American tomato pinworm Tuta absoluta and the whitefly worldwide, Bemisia tabaci. However, N. tenuis can damage the plant due to its phytophagy behaviour when prey is scarce. Because plant damage is currently limiting the widespread use of these bugs (Miridae) our aim will be to determine the metabolite cause of this plant damage and through artificial selection produce natural enemy strains that reduce plant damage.