Spider mite damage…

downloadSpider mites are members of the Acari (mite) family Tetranychidae, which includes about 1,200 other species. Spider mites are extremely tiny creatures, less than 1mm (0.04 in) in size and they vary in color. Among plant pests, mites are amongst the most difficult to control, and are responsible for a significant portion of all pesticides used on ornamentals. Individual spider mites are almost microscopic, yet when they occur in large numbers, they can cause serious plant damage. They generally live on the undersides of leaves of plants, where they may spin protective silk webs, and they can cause damage by puncturing the plant cells to feed. Spider mites are known to feed on several hundred species of plants. They lay small, spherical, initially transparent eggs and many species spin silk webbing to help protect the colony from predators; they get the “spider” part of their common name from this webbing.  A single mature female can spawn a population of a million mites in a month or less. This accelerated reproductive rate allows spider mite populations to adapt quickly to changing conditions. Usually one should look out for Spider mite damage in the summer months when the temperatures are high and conditions are dry as these conditions are most suitable to spider mite proliferation.

Many different species attack shade trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Spider mites attack a wide range of plants, including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, corn, cannabis, and strawberries.  The top of the leaves look like they have a bronze cast to them usually, but sometimes the look may be a silvery cast or even just a dull gray look. When spider mites attack the underside of leaves, we may mistake them for dust as they give a brownish brazen tinge.

images (1)Spider mites lack chewing or piercing-sucking mouthparts. They use a pair of needle-like stylets to rupture leaf cells and then push their mouth into the torn tissue to drink the cell sap. Small groups of cells are killed, which results in a stippling or speckling on the upper leaf surface. On plants which are heavily infested, the foliage will often become gray, yellow, bleached, dry, or bronzed, with leaf drop, loss of vigor and eventual death if untreated. With a magnifying hand lens, cast skins, eggshells, and individual mites, as well as mite colonies, are visible on the undersides of leaves.

An early sign of infestation is a very fine, light speckling or localized pale yellow spots on the upper surface of leaves. Careful examination of the undersides of affected leaves, preferably with a hand lens or magnifying glass, will reveal colonies of mites. A more generalized bronzing discoloration develops as infestation progresses.

Spider mites continue to be a pest problem in dry beans, soybeans and field corn in droughty areas. When left untreated, spider mites can cause extensive and irreversible damage to soybean foliage, so growers need to keep an eye on their fields – especially if the weather remains dry. Researchers muse that ‘Amino acids are more available to insects when they feed on stressed soybeans instead of healthy soybeans’. This means that the mites can proactively use these nutrients from stressed plants to synthesize proteins for use in their reproduction.

Spider mite damage is typically most visible at first in the most stressed areas of the field; this often includes field edges. Soybean growers are likely to first notice foliar damage in the form of subtle stippling of leaves, which can progress to bronzing.

If a mite infestation develops, leaves may be severely damaged and the food manufacturing ability of the plants progressively reduced. If an infestation is severe, leaves may be killed. In corn, effects on yield are most severe when mites start damaging leaves at or above the ear level. Infestations may reduce corn grain yields due to poor seed fill and they have been associated with accelerated plant dry down in the fall. The quality and yield of silage corn also may decline due to mite feeding.

Damage is similar in soybeans, and includes leaf spotting, leaf droppage, accelerated senescence and pod shattering, as well as yield loss. Early and severe mite injury left untreated can completely eliminate yields. More commonly, mite injury occurring during the late vegetative and early reproductive growth stages will reduce soybean yields 40%-60%. Spider mites can cause yield reductions as long as green pods are present.

Not just soybean and corn, other crops of great economic importance like coffee beans have to bear the brunt of a mite infestation. Let us look at the following news article:

Spider mites latest threat to Colombian coffee crop

September 06, 2012|Reuters

Colombian farmer Jairo Morales is worried. His coffee trees are speckled with crimson as tiny red spider mites attack his plantation, posing a threat not only to his livelihood but also to output in the world’s No. 3 coffee growing country.

The mites cling to the leaves of coffee plants and gradually turn them reddish until they wither and die.

The threat comes at a time in which Colombia is struggling to raise annual coffee output to 11 million 60-kilogram sacks, the country’s long-term average.

The tiny arachnids have always been a menace to coffee crops in the Andean country, but other predator insects have usually kept them at bay.

“This has been a surprise. I’d never seen anything like this in the many years that I’ve been growing coffee. I often see small areas by the side of the road, but never an attack like this,” Morales said.

Red spider mites have attacked many plantations in Caldas, the No. 4 coffee producing region in Colombia, contributing about 10 percent to the country’s total coffee output.

Morales suspect that the increasing number of spider mites could be a consequence of the ashes that covered the area after the Nevado del Ruiz volcano eruption in June, which apparently killed the insects that prey on the arachnids.

“The risk is that they ‘burn’ the leaves, and it takes a long time for the plants to recover,” said the farmer at his plantation on a mountain slope in the Caldas region.

“If the coffee trees fail to grow branches and flower we’ll lose the crop that we’re about to harvest and we can lose next year’s because they will not flower,” he said.

Crops in the Quindio, Risaralda and Valle del Cauca regions also have been hit, though less severely, according to the coffee grower’s federation.

Colombia, the world’s top producer of high-quality arabica beans, has missed its annual coffee production goals for three consecutive years due to torrential rains brought on by the weather phenomenon La Nina.

Heavy rains prevent flowering, which last year resulted in an output of 7.8 million sacks, the lowest in three decades. Production this year is expected to be around 8 million bags.

Moreover, due to their ever-growing population, spider mites quickly adapt to changes and learn to resist pesticides, so chemical control methods can become somewhat ineffective when the same pesticide is used over a prolonged period. Spider mites are difficult to control with pesticides, and many commonly used insecticides aggravate the problem by destroying their natural enemies. Use of the wrong pesticide at the wrong time can result in a season-long infestation of mites, which will be difficult to control with miticides. Although the labels on common pesticides do include spider mites, they usually contain pyrethroid. Because they contain pyrethroids they will be highly toxic to all beneficial insects such as predatory mites, big-eyed bugs and other insects that would normally prey on the spider mites. What is likely to happen following a pesticide application is that some of the spider mites will be killed and most or all of the predators also will be killed. Very quickly, the spider mites that were not killed by the application will begin to produce eggs, and when those eggs hatch there will not be any predators present to kills the mites. Thus the use of conventional pesticides will not effectively deal with the problem, but just might aggravate it further! The conventional pesticides and insecticides can thus not ensure that the problem won’t recur.

Termirepel™ a product by C Tech Corporation can provide much-needed relief from this problem. Termirepel™ is a non-toxic, non-hazardous insect and pest repellent. It is effective against a wide array of pests that attack the agricultural sector, some worse and difficult to eradicate like spider mites. Termirepel™ is available in the form of a liquid concentrate which can be further diluted and made into a spray, to be sprayed on the plants. Termirepel™ is also available in the form of polymer masterbatches to be added to agricultural films and micro-irrigation pipes during processing. This product will not kill the spider mite population but will just discourage their proliferation as well as return. It is designed in such as a way so as to discourage subsequent attacks. Thus it works on the principle of prevention being better than cure.

Destructive insect damaging our grapevines!

The glassy-winged sharpshooter is a large leafhopper species native to the south-eastern United States. It is one of the main vectors of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, a plant pathogen that causes a variety of plant diseases, including phony peach disease of peach and Pierce’s disease of grape. It obtains its nutrients by feeding on plant fluids in the water-conducting tissues of a plant. Feeding on plants rarely causes significant plant damage, although the insects do excrete copious amounts of liquid that can make leaves and fruit appear whitewashed when dry. The excrement is a special nuisance when shade trees are heavily infested because cars parked under the trees tend to become spotted. During hot weather, heavy populations of glassy-winged sharpshooters feeding on small plants may cause them to wilt.

ML9Z8LVZXL4ZHL4ZMHEZ7HGZ7HOH8HDH7H1HPHUZ4L1Z8L9Z9H9Z7LNZILJH8LPZXH2Z8HDH9HBZ2HThe real problem associated with glassy-winged sharpshooter, however, is that it can spread the disease-causing bacterium Xylella fastidiosa from one plant to another. This bacterium is the causal agent of devastating plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease of grape, oleander leaf scorch, almond leaf scorch and mulberry leaf scorch. Other diseases to landscape plants in California include sweet gum dieback and cherry plum leaf scorch. When a glassy-winged sharpshooter feeds on a plant that is infected with X. fastidiosa, it acquires the bacteria, which multiplies within the insect’s mouthparts. The sharpshooter then transfers the bacteria to another plant when it feeds. The glassy-winged sharpshooter feeds on plants through straw-like mouthparts inserted into the xylem tissue which conducts water throughout the plant. Because nutrients are diluted in xylem fluid, the insect must process large volumes to meet nutritional needs. Thus, this pest produces copious amounts of watery excreta and is a social nuisance as the liquid rains down from large populations feeding on ornamental trees.

In infested citrus orchards, tree canopies take on a white-washed appearance by mid-summer due to the buildup of residues after the evaporation of these watery excreta. Different strains of this bacterium induce severe diseases in many agricultural and ornamental plants. In ornamental horticulture, an important part of the landscape in the southwest will be lost if oleander leaf scorch continues to spread and resistant oleander varieties are not found. Oleander is found in 20% of all home gardens in California, and is a mainstay of landscapes in shopping centers, parks and golf courses. It is estimated that Caltrans alone stands to suffer at least a $52 million loss if oleander on highway plantings is lost. In the city of Tustin (Orange County), approximately $200,000 was requisitioned to pay for removal of oleanders maintained on city greenbelts and for replanting other ornamental species. Another huge economic problem lies in the transport of ornamentals by wholesale nurseries as this industry is subjected to rigorous inspections and mandatory insecticide applications to minimize the accidental shipment of the glassy-winged sharpshooter into uninfested areas of California. The Agriculture Appropriation Act of 2002 included $8.5 million in funding for controlling the glassy-winged sharpshooter.

The below article would better explain these menacing insects.


Pesky, destructive insect discovered in Marin

 March 13, 2015

By Chris Rooney

 As if unreliable weather patterns aren’t enough to drive grape growers over the edge, a new threat for vintners has reared its ugly head in Marin County — the glass-winged sharpshooter.

 “People need to know how devastating this pest can be,” Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen said. “We want to keep it out of the county.”

 The destructive insect sucks the fluids out of plants and can wreak horticultural havoc in agricultural areas. One critter was recently found in Marin County during a routine inspection of a nursery shipment from Ventura County.

 Despite thorough efforts to inspect plants being shipped from southern California to local nurseries, Carlsen said the sharpshooter can sneak by.

“Check your plants and make sure there are no hitchhikers,” Carlsen said.

 550315fd8e6b0.imageCarlsen reported that an agricultural program assistant with the Marin County Department of Agriculture captured an adult glassy-winged sharpshooter on Feb. 26 while checking an incoming plant shipment.

 According to a Bay City News report, that shipment has since been returned, but the name of the nursery that sent it is being withheld to prevent unwanted attention, according to the Department of Agriculture.

 The species damages a wide variety of plants and spreads lethal diseases to crops such as almonds and grapes for which there are no known cures.

 According to the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program, the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis, is an insect that was inadvertently introduced into southern California in the early 1990s.

 It is native to the southeastern United States and was most likely brought into California accidentally as egg masses in ornamental or agricultural plant foliage.

 The real problem associated with glassy-winged sharpshooter, however, is that it can spread the disease-causing bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, from one plant to another. This bacterium is the causal agent of devastating plant diseases such as Pierce’s disease of grape, oleander leaf scorch, almond leaf scorch and mulberry leaf scorch. Other diseases to landscape plants in California include sweet gum dieback and cherry plum leaf scorch.

 The principal reason for controlling the glassy-winged sharpshooter is to prevent the spread of the Xylella bacterium to susceptible plants. Because very low numbers of sharpshooters can spread the disease, it is not known how effective insecticides applied to suppress sharpshooters will be in controlling disease spread; research is currently underway to study this issue.

 The current strategy for containing the problem is to keep the insect out of new areas.

What we need is a solution which would effectively keep the glassy-winged sharpshooter population in check, keeping them away from our trees, while at the same time not having any negative impact on the environment.

C Tech Corporation offers a product called Termirepel™, which is a non-toxic, non-hazardous, environmentally safe insect repellent. It can repel more than 500 species of insects on account of it being a broad spectrum anti-insect repellent. The most striking feature of Termirepel™ is that it neither kills the target species, nor the non-target species. It will simply keep the insects away from the application. This product is available in masterbatch and lacquer form, and as a liquid solution. Termirepel™ can be incorporated in agricultural bags and films or coated on trunks, which could be used to keep our trees safe and guarded against these pesky insects!

Coptotermes acinaciformis: A major cause of wood damage in Australia

Be it homeowners, hotel owners, library owners or theatre owners, they have one enemy in common and they are termites!! And when they are as dangerous as Coptotermes acinaciformis, there is a great reason to worry about. Let’s get to know more about these species.

Coptotermes acinaciformis can be found in widespread areas throughout downloadAustralia. They are predominantly found in urban areas and where eucalypts are abundant. They are the second most destructive termite in Australia and cause the greatest amount of structural damage to buildings, timber structures, trees and electrical wiring.

These species are most commonly found in the base of trees and stumps and in built in patios, under concrete slabs and buried timber, wherever there is moisture and a secure hiding place to form a nest. They love it between garden sheds and the fence when timber is left there. One of the most destructive elements of this species is that it can form ancillary nests, away from the main colony, particularly in wall cavities.

download (1)Coptotermes acinaciformis are subterranean termite species 5.0-6.6 mm in length, and they have sabre like the mandibles with no obvious teeth. The labrum is not grooved and the head is pear shaped and rounded laterally. Fontanelle is obvious on the anterior part of the head. Tarsi (skeleton) have 4 segments and abdominal cerci have 2 segments. It pronotum(dorsal) is flat and it does not have any anterior lobe.

imagesThe life cycle of these species is a gradual process. Queen lays eggs singly. A nymph after hatching passes through 4-7 moults before becoming a mature worker, soldier or winged reproductive. Nymphs resemble the adults or mature castes. Nymphal stage lasts approximately 2-3 months, depending of food and climatic conditions. No pupal stage exists. Soldiers and workers live for 1-2 years.

There are 4 different castes of adults:

  1. Queen and King:

The queen and king are the original winged reproductives (dealates). When a new colony is formed the pair must feed and care for the young until there are sufficient soldiers and workers to take over the duties of the colony.

  1. Worker:

This is the most abundant caste in the colony, performing all the tasks except defence and reproduction. It is this caste that does damage to timber. These are the males and females whose sexual organs and characteristics have not developed. They are wingless, blind and sterile. They also have a thin cuticlewhich makes them susceptible to desiccation. They are the kind of species which will leave the security of underground tunnels and shelter tubes only when humidity is high or in the search for new food sources.

  1. Soldier:

This is the most distinctive and the easiest caste from which to identify a species. The role of this caste is to defend the colony. These consist of males and females whose sexual organs and characteristics have not developed. Li ke the workers caste, they are susceptible to dessication and seldom leave the colony or shelter ubes. The fontanelle is used to discharge a secretion associated with defence, since it is a repellent to ants and other enemies of termites.

  1. Reproductive:

They are the future kings and queens. Having compound eyes, they are darker in colour and have a more dense cuticle than workers and soldiers. They are often large. When fully winged(alates) a colonising flight will occur when humidity and temperature conditions outside approximate the conditions inside the colony, normally in summer months.

These mostly nests in trees, stumps, poles or filled-in verandahs where timber has been buried. Soil contact is desirable, but not essential depending on an assured water supply and security in its habitat.

Workers feed on wood, wood products, leaves, bark and grass. The cellulose of wood is digested by intestinal protozoa. The other castes are fed by the workers from oral and anal excretions. Protein is also required in the diet, which is usually supplied by fungi that decay wood and vegetation.

Coptotermes “acinaciformis” gets its name from the fact that the soldiers excrete formic acid from their mouths when they are threatened. This poses a problem for wiring in buildings infested with this species. These are most widely distributed timber pest in Australia, accounting for more than 70% of the serious damage to buildings in New South Wales. A single colony may consist of more than one million termites.

The destruction caused by these species is unprecedented. Our product Termirepel™ is ideal solution for this problem. Termirepel ™ is a non-toxic, eco-friendly insect and pest aversive. It is a broad spectrum aversive, designed for protection against termites but is effective against a multitude of other insects and pests.

It is used against Termites of all classes successfully. It can be incorporated into polymeric application in terms of masterbatches and can also be used to give a coating as it is available in liquid as well as lacquer form. The lacquer form can easily be used to coat a wooden product as these species clearly target timber and its derivatives.

Termirepel™ has unique qualities, it does not leach out of the end application, it can withstand high temperatures, it does not kill the target species i.e. termites and last but not the least it is one of the answers to our deteriorating environment: It is ECOFRIENDLY.





Root Maggots threat!

caRoot maggots are the immature stage, or larvae, of small flies that belong to the insect order Diptera i.e. flies and the family Anthomyiidae. Root maggots occur worldwide. They are short-lived insects. Maggots are not particularly large creatures; their maximum length being 1/4th of an inch. The maggots are – cream colored, elongate with the head end pointed. Root maggots thrive in organic matter.

Root maggots constitute the most serious annually recurring insect pest problem of vegetable production. They attack all varieties of crucifiers. When root maggot larvae feed on root crops such as turnip, rutabaga and radish, they leave surface scars and feeding tunnels thus literally scarring the plant. Any feeding scars may render the produce unacceptable for market thus causing severe losses. The root is severely damaged. Feeding tunnels make the plant vulnerable to infection by soft-rot bacteria and to secondary infestation by springtails and thrips. Feeding by root maggot larvae on the stem, leaf and flowering crucifers like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts and kohlrabi results in severe decline in the health of the plant. Young plants may be girdled and may die. Root systems in older plants may be extensively damaged and the tap root may be destroyed completely.

Root maggots attack different crops like cabbage, onion, canola, etc. They are named based on the crops that they target as canola root maggot, cabbage root maggot, onion root maggot, etc.

T1he cabbage maggot, Delia radicum, is a sporadic pest of many Cole crops including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, turnips, radishes, and other crops of the mustard family. Occasionally, they attack other vegetables such as beet and celery. When cabbage maggots emerge, they immediately start feeding on the roots of the host plant seedlings. Plants are more susceptible to cabbage maggots during a wet, cold spring with most of the damage limited to the early spring plantings. Injury from the second generation in late June or July is usually not severe because the maggots prefer cool, moist conditions and younger, tender plants. Maggots feed on the root hair and can create extensive, slimy tunnels on the root surface and throughout the roots. Larvae feed on roots and tunnel into the taproot, producing brown streaks on the root. The lower leaves of infested plants often turn yellow, with severe damage resulting in arrested plant growth. Feeding damage may also promote disease, causing further stress on the plant. Root maggots and root disease often show up together in the same field.

Severe root maggot damage can occur in fields with back to back canola plantations if crop rotation is not followed. Based on average canola prices, the yield losses quantified in the study were equivalent to $108-$140 per acre after only three years of continuous canola. In canola, severe maggot infestations can cause plant wilting, stunting and reduced flowering, decreased seed weight, and lower seed yields. If feeding tunnels are extensive and girdle the root, plant lodging and death can occur. Roots damaged by these maggots are more susceptible to invasion by root pathogens such as Fusarium than intact roots. Yield reductions of the range of 50 and 19 percent from root maggot damage for crops of Brassica rapa L. and B. napus L., respectively, have been reported. In a four-year survey conducted by a team of scientists, of nearly 3000 canola fields across Western Canada, the greatest degree of damage over the largest area was found in central, western and northwestern Alberta, although localized areas with severely damaged roots occurred along the northern edge of the entire Parkland  eco region. Soil type can play a part in the degree of root maggot infestation of canola.

canola1The onion maggot (Delia antiqua) is one of the most destructive insect pests of onions and related plants. Injured seedlings wilt and die. Larger bulbs may survive some injury but are often poor keepers. Once onion maggots infest an area, they seem to be a problem every year. White onion varieties are more susceptible to attack than other varieties. Stunted or wilting onion plants are the first signs of onion maggot damage. At this time, you may find the maggots in putrid, decomposing onion plants. Light infestations may not kill onions but may make them more susceptible to rots. Onions of all sizes may be attacked, especially in the fall, when cooler weather favors the maggot’s activity. Damaged onions are not marketable and will rot in storage causing other onions to rot.

Let us look at the following news article about root maggot damage.

Continuous canola can lead to root maggot damage

CONTINUAL DROP Study finds drop in yields significant after first year

Posted Oct. 5th, 2012

If your rotation is canola, snow, and canola again, you’re setting yourself up for a root maggot infestation.

Insects love it when you grow the same crop year after year, and root maggots and canola are no exception, University of Alberta entomologist Lloyd Dosdall told attendees at a recent Alberta Canola industry update seminar.

Dosdall was part of a research team that examined how canola rotation — or the lack of it — affects crop damage, yield and seed quality. The study examined 13 different treatments done across Western Canada at five different sites from 2008 to 2011.

Several sites were continuously cropped with canola, while others had a canola-wheat-canola rotation or only had canola in one of the three years. At the end of the season, researchers examined root damage to determine the severity of root maggot infestation.

“The damage to canola that was grown continuously was more severe than when canola was rotated,” said Dosdall.

Root maggot larvae overwinter in soil and the study found the damage they cause increased every year.

“We had the highest yields in the first year of continuous canola, and then they just dropped down significantly in the following two years,” he said.

Dosdall said the loss from continuous cropping ranged from a loss of $280 to $380 per hectare.

The above article suggests that crop rotation is one way of preventing root maggot infestation. But crop rotation is not always desirable or economical. In such circumstances the crucifers don’t stand a chance. This is so because there are no insecticides available to treat root maggots; unbelievably so! This presents before us a huge problem. In these trying times Termirepel™ a product by C Tech Corporation can provide us with the necessary relief. Termirepel™ can be broadly defined as a non-toxic and non-hazardous termite aversive. But it is also highly effective against a multitude of other insects and pests. Termirepel™ in the form of an atomized spray can be used as a new age insecticide but in this case explicitly non-hazardous and environment friendly. Also Termirepel™ is available in the form of solid masterbatch which can be incorporated in drip irrigation pipes during polymer processing. The unique feature of this product is that it acts by a mechanism of repellence and does not kill the target species.






Crops at risk of gall midge attack!

yOne of the major crop pests found in Asia is the gall midge. The gall midge is a small fly that lays its eggs in flower buds. When the eggs hatch, tiny worm-like larvae emerge that damage the young bud, causing it to fall to the ground. There are various types of gall midges that damage particular target species. The rose midge infests young buds and shoots of roses and is a serious pest in greenhouse. Some other serious pests are the wheat midge, sorghum midge, rice midge, clover midge, and pear midge.

The larvae of these pests cause severe crop damage during the vegetative stages by producing tube-like ‘silver shoot’ or ‘onion leaf’ galls that prevent panicle production. Severe yield losses are reported due to these pests that vary significantly depending on the climatic zone, ecosystem and level of cropping intensification. In the face of increasing human population and rapidly growing demand for food grains, the alleviation of insect-induced food-grain losses has to be tackled to ensure food security of the large number of people in Africa who depend on crops. The damage due to these pests can also kill individual shoots. Repeated attacks can cause brooming, a proliferation of shoots at the ends of the twig and disfigured growth. Besides reducing the yield, the damage is unsightly and can lower the aesthetic value of ornamental trees.

Mango-gall-midgeLosses as high as 25–80% in farmers’ crops have been recorded in some fields. The larvae attack the growing points of tillers and cause the leaf sheath tissues to form a tube-like structure called a ‘silver shoot gall’ that resembles an onion leaf. Early gall infestation results in stunting, bushy appearance of the plant, with as many as 50 small tillers per hill. In Orissa, India, yield losses due to the gall midges ranged from 0.06 to 1.1% for every unit percent increase in silver shoots. Another trial reported that infestation was reduced to 19% as compared with 39.6%. It was reported that the presence of even 5% silver shoots decreased yields by 37%. Blueberry gall midge occurs sporadically, but when present, they can cause reductions of 20 to 80% flower buds or fruit.

The below article would better explain the damage caused by these pests.


Cereal crops at risk of saddle gall midge attack

 21 December 2012

Not all of the limitations and threats facing the UK wheat crop are familiar and established ones, Caroline Nicholls, HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager told the HGCA Agronomists’ Conference.

Outlining the HGCA-funded research on saddle gall midge, she said: “During the past three summers, we have been working with cereal growers to identify the extent of the threat posed by saddle gall midge, which before 2010 had been relatively unknown in the UK since the last significant damage was reported in the 1970s.”

The pest was generally more prevalent in central and northern Europe. The early stages make themselves apparent in the form of red-orange larvae in the soil, and red/orange eggs later lay mainly on the younger leaves of wheat plants.

Once hatched, the larvae can be seen by peeling away the leaf sheath beneath the saddle-like galls that become apparent on the stems. The biggest impact of these is the node decay they cause.

“Since 2011, we have been working with ADAS, AICC, Dow AgroSciences and cereal growers to produce a review of the pest’s biology and a strategy for control. Crops most at risk are those where stem extension coincides with larval feeding, particularly in late and spring-sown wheat and barley. Heavy land and under-continuous cereals are also affected,” said Ms Nicholls.

Information is available from HGCA on identification and control, with early sowing and the wider use of break crops among the key factors in regularly affected areas.

There are no insecticide label recommendations for control of saddle gall midge, but organo-phosphates and pyrethroids have been shown to give good control.

Application timing is crucial, though – treatment must be made before the larvae move beneath the leaf sheath.

Chemical control of this pest is not a viable control option because the destructive larval stages live within the plant. Use of unnecessary synthetic insecticides increases the risk of disturbing the natural ecological balance. Thus we need a solution which would effectively keep the gall midge population in check, keeping them away from our crops, while at the same time not having any negative impact on the environment.

C Tech Corporation offers a product called Termirepel™, which is a non-toxic, non-hazardous, environmentally safe insect repellent. It can repel more than 500 species of insects on account of it being a broad spectrum anti-insect repellent. The most striking feature of Termirepel™ is that it neither kills the target species, nor the non-target species. It will simply keep the insects away from the application. This product is available in masterbatch and lacquer form, and as a liquid solution. Termirepel™ can be added in mulches or incorporated in agricultural bags and films, which could be used to keep our grains safe and guarded against the pesky gall midges!