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Control of tomato whiteflies using the confusion effect of plant odours

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Colin Tosh, Dr Barry Brogan



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Glasshouse tomato production is reduced by the whitefly Trialeurodes vaporariorum, a major worldwide pest of glasshouse crops. Whitefly control is achieved using pesticides or parasitoids, which have drawbacks. There is thus a need for other control methods. For instance, the use of volatile compounds from plant odours could profoundly change the behaviour of plant-eating insects. This practice should be safe because plant odours are usually harmless to humans. Therefore we have studied the effect of plant volatiles on whiteflies feeding on tomato plants. The rationale was to use the confusion effect by supplying whiteflies with a super-abundance of volatiles. We removed plant headspace volatiles from multiple whitefly host plants. Then we presented these volatiles to whiteflies feeding on tomato plants. At the same time whitefly stylet penetration is monitored using electrical penetration graphs (EPG). Plant colonisation, egg laying, and honeydew production is analysed in separate experiments. Data are compared to controls in which extracted volatiles from tomato and air alone are presented to the whiteflies. The only significant effect produced by exposure to multiple host volatiles is a pronounced reduction in the incidence of phloem-related waveforms during the 15h EPG recording. This represents a delay in rather than a cessation of phloem related activities as there is no related reduction in long term performance. The confusion effect thus does not appear to exert strong effects on whitefly behaviour here.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tosh CR, Brogan B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Agronomy for Sustainable Development

Year: 2015

Volume: 35

Issue: 1

Pages: 183-193

Print publication date: 01/01/2015

Online publication date: 17/04/2014

Acceptance date: 26/02/2014

Date deposited: 15/01/2015

ISSN (print): 1774-0746

ISSN (electronic): 1773-0155

Publisher: Springer Paris


DOI: 10.1007/s13593-014-0219-4


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Funder referenceFunder name
NE/H015469/1UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant