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Companion planting with French marigolds protects tomato plants from glasshouse whiteflies through the emission of airborne limonene

Lookup NU author(s): niall Conboy, Dr Thomas McDanielORCiD, Dr Dave George, Professor Angharad MR GatehouseORCiD, Paul Donohoe, Dr Colin Tosh



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


Horticulturalists and gardeners in temperate regions often claim that planting marigolds next to tomato plants protects the tomatoes from the glasshouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum Westwood). If shown to hold true, this technique could be used in larger-scale tomato production, protecting the crop and helping to introduce greater plant diversity into these agro-ecosystems. Here we present two large-scale glasshouse trials corresponding to the two main ways growers are likely to use marigolds to control whiteflies. In the first, marigolds are grown next to tomato throughout the growing period and we quantify whitefly population growth from the seedling stage over a 48 day infestation period. Here we show that association with marigolds significantly slows whitefly population development. Introducing additional whitefly-attractive ‘pull’ plants around the perimeter of plots has little effect, but reducing the proportion of marigolds and introducing other non-hosts of whiteflies (basil, nasturtium and Chinese cabbage) also reduces whitefly populations on tomato. The second experiment assesses the efficacy of marigolds when used as an ‘emergency’ measure. Here we allow whitefly populations to build to a high density on unprotected tomatoes then introduce marigolds and assess whitefly population over a further period. Following laboratory work showing limonene to be a major chemical component of French marigolds and a negative behaviour response of whiteflies to this compound, limonene dispensers are added as an additional treatment to this experiment. “Emergency” marigold companion planting yielded minimal reductions in whitefly performance, but the use of limonene dispensers was more effective. Our work indicates that companion planting short vine tomatoes with French marigolds throughout the growing season will slow development of whitefly populations. Introducing marigolds to unprotected tomatoes after significant whitefly build-up will be less effective. The use of limonene dispensers placed near to tomato plants also shows promise. It is argued that this work supports the possibility of the development of a mixture of tomato companion plants that infer ‘associational resistance’ against many major invertebrate pests of tomato. Such a mixture, if comprising edible or ornamental plants, would be economically viable, would reduce the need for additional chemical and biological control, and, if used outdoors, would generate plant-diverse agro-ecosystems that are better able to harbour invertebrate wildlife.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Conboy NJA, McDaniel T, Ormerod A, George D, Gatehouse AMR, Wharton E, Donohoe P, Curtis R, Tosh CR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PloS ONE

Year: 2019

Volume: 14

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 01/03/2019

Acceptance date: 14/02/2019

Date deposited: 01/03/2019

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213071


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