After 36 months of research with field observations and field sampling, the Network of Experts on Plant Protection of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Ecuador (Magap), discovered two insects that are a natural control of pests that affect citrus and ornamental plants.
The insects are the Diaphorencyrtusaligarhensis (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), a specific parasitoid that controls the pest known as citrus psyllid; and the Tamarixiamercet (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae), an agent for biological control of various psyllid and trioza pests.
The citrus psyllid is an insect native to Southeast Asia that can be found in countries, such as India, Saudi Arabia, Mauritius and Reunion, Florida, Texas, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, and in some regions of the Caribbean and Central America.
Due to its distribution and biological characteristics, it is the most important vector of the HLB or greening, the main citrus disease worldwide, which causes deformities and varied colorations in plants and fruits. This disease reduces production and producers must get rid of all of the infested plant to prevent the virus from spreading.
Mariuxi Gomez, a scientific adviser for the Magap and member of the Network, noted that the presence of the psyllid was reported in Ecuador in 2014, but that they had not found any natural enemies that could control the populations of this insect in equilibrium.
It was only in November 2015 that a group of national and foreign researchers found the natural presence of the Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae and Hymenoptera: Eulophidae parasitoids in different parts of the province of Guayas, on the Ecuadorian coast.
The group was made up of technicians from the Magap and from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa); of the Biological Control Laboratory of the Experimental Center from the Campinas Biological Institute, and from the Natural History Museum of London.
Gomez said that the discovery of these insects, which act as natural pest controllers, will allow them to have a cleaner and more sustainable agriculture, as producers could refrain from using agrochemicals that may affect the environment in an indiscriminate manner.