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Control of Tuta absoluta in tomato cultivation in Flanders (TUTA)

Main research question/goal
The aim of this project is to develop a sustainable, biologically based management strategy for the recently introduced tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta in tomato production in Flanders. T. absoluta, which originated in South America, is a pest whose larvae make mines in the leaves of tomato plant (reducing production) and even in the tomatoes themselves (making them unsuitable for consumption and sale). Chemical control must be limited to avoid development of pesticide resistance and potential negative side effects on beneficial insects (including bumblebees that promote natural pollination in greenhouses), and to stay in line with the EU regulation on sustainable agriculture. As an alternative for chemical control the objective is to find natural enemies of T. absoluta that are commercially deployable on tomato farms.
Research approach
The project consortium (ILVO, the Laboratory of Agrozoology of Ghent University, the Research Institute of Sint-Katelijne-Waver and Research Centre Hoogstraten) is looking to answer two questions: 1) Which natural enemies of this moth can be commercially deployed? and 2) What is the overwintering capacity of this invasive leaf miner? The bug Macrolophus pygmaeus is currently used as a biological control agent against T. absoluta. Unfortunately, this predatory bug is not able to control the moth at the beginning of the production season or when a heavy infestation occurs. We strive to increase the efficacy of M. pygmaeus and to identify new potential biological control agents.
Given the widespread distribution of this pest, the researchers maintain close contact with international research projects related to T. absoluta to be up date with new findings. T. absoluta has caused already considerable yield reduction in South America and Southern Europe, so the Flemish tomato producers are rightly concerned about this new threat. We make a great effort to share our knowledge with stakeholders through all the classical communication channels. The proposed package of sustainable control measures for T. absoluta needs to be compatible with and complementary to the currently used management strategies in tomato cultivation.
External partner(s)
PCG - Provinciaal Proefcentrum voor de Groenteteelt Oost-Vlaanderen vzw
PCH - Proefcentrum Hoogstraten
Ugent - Fac. Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen
Date:1 Nov 2011 →  31 Oct 2015