Wageningen UR Plant Research International will develop a 'Lure & Infect Strategy' to get rid of 'red rust thrips' in organic banana plantations in Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The aim is to attract the thrips with an odour into a trap where they will be infected with a deadly fungus. The infected insects won't die immediately, but spread the spores to their conspecifics, eventually killing all of them.
Banana red rust thrips
Currently, small producers of fair trade and organic certified bananas in Peru and Ecuador, are facing increasing losses, due to the ‘banana red rust thrips’. The ‘banana red rust thrips’ are tiny insects (1-2 mm), that like to feed on banana flowers and bananas. Thereby, they leave red spots on the banana skin. These are pure cosmetic problems; there is no damage to the fruit itself. However, in their quality requirements, the supermarkets handle a ‘zero tolerance policy’ with respect to this banana rust. Affected banana bunches cannot be processed, packed and exported.
Biological pest control
Wageningen UR collaborates with the TASTE Foundation, several Latin American universities and agricultural organisations to find effective biological control measures to combat the ‘banana red rust thrips’ in organic plantations in Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.
Attractants for monitoring and control
The wider scope of this research project is to improve soil conditions (microorganisms, biofertilizers and other soil factors) and to develop/integrate biological and cultural methods for control of ‘red rust thrips’ in banana production. Wageningen UR will focus on the development and use of attractants for monitoring and control of thrips, next to finding and exploiting entomopathogenic fungi for biological control. The ultimate goal is to combine the attractant with effective biological control means to a Lure & Infect strategy.
This research project is being supported by Fontagro, an alliance of Latin American and Caribbean countries that supports research and innovation in agriculture.