Innovative research: vibrational mating disruption (part 3)

Written by   Russell Fox

While mating disruption has been a corner stone of IPM in pome and stone fruit orchards for many years, this work is an advanced and innovative approach to mating disruption, and a new direction for IPM.

Disrupting the vibrations insects use to find mates could help prevent the spread of disease in vineyards around the world.

Leafhopper soundless vibrations (continued from last issue)
Vibrational mating disruption is a product of a little bit of technology and a lot of research on insect behaviour.
The researchers use a laser doppler vibrometer to detect and record vibrations, while a prototype shaker called TREMOS sends the vibrations through plants.
Scientists, like Krugner and Mazzoni, observe leafhopper reactions during playback experiments and can use their observations to guide protocols viticulturists could use to disrupt insect mating in their vineyards.
To make this setup suitable for field trials, a series of shakers are strategically placed along vineyard rows and attached to trellis wires that hold up grapevines, which help transport vibrations onto multiple plants.
What the Future Holds
Currently, Mazzoni and Krugner are testing vibrational mating disruption only on leafhopper species within small-scale experimental vineyards in the US and Italy.
However, with an estimated 150,000 species of insects around the globe believed to solely use some sort of vibrational signalling, the potential is far greater.
The amount of energy needed to run the shakers is one factor impeding large-scale applications. Using only a portion of the leafhoppers’ vibrational spectrum, specifically the lower frequencies, seems to be a promising tactic to achieve better energy efficiency.
Krugner and Mazzoni see a future for this research in emitting signals that affect a wider range of pest insects across a diversity of agricultural crops, all while collecting external environmental data.
To get closer to this holistic approach, vibrational mating disruption is likely to benefit from advancements in agricultural production and vibration detection technologies.
“Technology is progressing so fast that when I started 10 years ago, I was thinking that this wasn’t possible in the field, and now we are in the field,” says Mazzoni. “What we think is a problem now will likely be solved in another 10 years.”

See this article in Tree Fruit Nov 2018

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