Natalia Wilches-Ramirez, a researcher at the Javeriana University, has discovered a nematode that could be used in the biological control of some of the pests that affect Hass avocados, including Pandeleteius cinereus and Epitrix cucumeris insects.
“These pest insects affect the foliage and buds of young plants, causing defoliation and reducing the photosynthetic area of the leaves, inhibiting plant growth and its development. In adult plants, they can affect the fruit, since a part of their life cycle happens as an insect within them,” Wilches stated.
After collecting biological material in an organic Hass avocado crop that was affected by both insects in the municipality of Pasca, Cundinamarca, the samples were taken to controlled laboratory conditions and exposed to eight strains of entomopathogenic nematodes (Nep), a group of parasitic worms of these species.
These invertebrates, previously isolated and collected in areas with different heights, temperatures, humidity, and soils, proved to have a great capacity to kill the Pandeleteius cinereus and Epitrix cucumeris insects present in avocado plants.
“When they no longer find individuals to parasitize, they end their life cycle without impacting the fruits. Since it is an endemic nematode, introducing this species does not alter the ecosystem,” the researcher stated.
“The idea of biological control is to find the balance between crop production and the presence of insects-pests per plant. Agrochemicals eliminate everything, even organisms that benefit crops. This biological control based on entomopathogenic nematodes arises as an alternative or as a complement to the use of agrochemicals," Wilches-Ramirez concluded.