Brassica Farmers: Help NC State Researchers Help You!

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Pheromone emitter

Pheromone emitter in a Brassica crop. Photo by George Kennedy.

If you are a farmer growing Brassica crops within 100 miles of Raleigh, some NC State entomologists would love to hear from you!

Dr. George Kennedy and Dr. Jim Walgenbach are conducting on-farm research to examine the effectiveness of pheromone emitters to control populations of diamondback moths without insecticides. They need to identify area farms willing to cooperate so they can test these emitters. This mating disruption technology has shown promise and can potentially be very beneficial to farmers. If the researchers can demonstrate its effectiveness they can help make it commercially available.

The diamondback moth (DBM) is one of the most common and difficult to manage caterpillar pests affecting brassica crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, turnips. Populations can reach very high numbers and cause severe plant damage. In addition, larvae and pupae can occur in the broccoli heads and on cabbage leaves, contaminating the harvest.

Many populations of DBM resistant to Bt sprays and to most conventional insecticides are common in both organic and conventional cropping and are very difficult to control.

Kennedy and Walgenbach are investigating a new alternative method of managing DBM. The female moths release a sex pheromone to attract males for mating. In limited field trials in commercial cabbage and collard fields, they have been able to interfere with the ability of males to locate and mate with females and thus block reproduction and the development of larval populations. This involves releasing the pheromone from emitters placed around the crop. This approach has been used to manage a number of other moth pests, most commonly in tree fruits, and holds promise for managing DBM without insecticides of any kind.

The researchers would like to identify a number of brassica plantings at area farms in which they can place pheromone emitters (see photo above) along with a sex pheromone baited trap to monitor the adult moth population.

What would be involved:

Meet briefly with George Kennedy at your field site to discuss the project and place pheromone emitter(s) and one pheromone trap. Because one emitter covers a surrounding radius of 100 ft, the number of emitters required depends on the size and configuration of the planting. They are interested in plantings of almost any size and shape.

Emitters and the pheromone trap would be placed so that it would not interfere with routine field operations.

A project technician would visit the cooperating farm approximately every two weeks to check the trap and monitor DBM larvae on the crop. This would involve visually inspecting 10 -30 plants and counting the numbers of DBM caterpillars and pupae present. This will be done without injuring the plants.

To the extent you are interested, the researchers will provide you with the results of their insect counts following each sampling, including information on insect pests other than DBM on the crop, as well as a final report of their findings.

If you grow Brassica crops and are within 100 miles of Raleigh and are interested in participating, please contact George Kennedy at Ideally the emitters are placed on farm within one month of the crop being transplanted into the field.