Lepidopterous pests on vegetable brassicas in Pukekohe, New Zealand: their seasonality, parasitism, and management
The vegetable brassicas of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are grown in Pukekohe for the Auckland fresh-produce markets. These brassicas are attacked by three major lepidopterous pests: diamondback moth (DBM) (Plutella xylostella (L)) (Yponomeutidae), white butterfly (WB) (Pieris rapae (L.)) (Pieridae), and soybean looper (SBL) (Thysanoplusia orichalcea (F.)) (Noctuidae). Current grower strategy to combat these pests is calendar-scheduled insecticide applications. The goal of this thesis is to develop pest management alternatives. The seasonality of these three pests is discussed. DBM and WB are each under biological control by a larval and a pupal parasitoid, but this natural control is not sufficient to allow economic harvests in cabbage and was not synchronized. No parasitoids of SBL were found. The importation of additional natural enemies is discussed. A scouting system of the percent of cabbage plants infested coupled with an action threshold of. 15%-20% infested plants, resulted in good yields in field trials and allowed up to a 50% reduction in insecticide applications over the growth period when compared to a 14-day calendar schedule. Implementation of the 15% infested threshold in commercial cabbage fields resulted in up to an 83% reduction in insecticide applications with no yield decrease in quality or quantity. Application of this 15% infested plant threshold to broccoli and cauliflower decreased insecticide applications by 40% and 17%, respectively. Study of larval biology indicated that all of the lepidopterans preferentially fed on leaves; timing of the first insecticide application in broccoli and cauliflower to coincide with floret initiation decreased insecticide applications by 80% and 67%, respectively. Laboratory and field trials comparing DBM oviposition preference, larval survivability, and parasitism rates between cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are discussed. Knowledge of lepidopterous pest seasonality and biology, linked to careful timing of insecticide applications to coincide with threshold levels of pests, can take full advantage of natural enemies and reduce insecticide input in the vegetable brassicas of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower with no decrease in crop quality.