Efficacy of sulphur on Tuta absoluta and its side effects on the predator Nesidiocoris tenuis
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The South American tomato pinworm, Tuta absoluta (Meyrick), is one of the major pests of tomato crop. Since its detection in the Mediterranean basin, it has been commonly controlled using chemical insecticides. However, inoculation and conservation of predatory mirids, integrated with sprays of selective insecticides, has been demonstrated to be a cost-effective strategy for controlling this pest. In this work, we tested the efficacy of two sulphur formulations, dustable and wettable powder, for controlling T. absoluta on tomato under greenhouse and open-field conditions. In addition, the side effects of both sulphur formulations on the predator, Nesidiocoris tenuis (Reuter), were evaluated under laboratory conditions. Dustable sulphur, applied weekly on tomato seedlings artificially infested with T. absoluta in greenhouse conditions, significantly reduced the infestation levels and was demonstrated to have a repellent effect on oviposition. Wettable sulphur was not effective for controlling T. absoluta populations in both greenhouse and open-field experiments. In the side effect trials conducted with N. tenuis, only dustable sulphur resulted in being moderately harmful as a fresh residue and slightly harmful as a 7-day-old residue; no effects were recorded exposing the predator to 14-day-old sulphur residues. In contrast, wettable sulphur was classified as harmless to N. tenuis. Our results suggest that the use of sulphur, especially as dustable powder, could be considered as a tool in T. absoluta management strategies, although its side effects on N. tenuis should be taken into account. The implications of these results for the use of sulphur formulations in pest and disease management programmes in tomato crops are discussed.