Biocontrol with predatory mites: build up the army before the battle begins

A strong standing army of predatory mites is a great way to protect your crop from pest attack. ”In the past, growers had to wait for pests to be present in the crop before releasing predatory mites. Without pests, predators had no food to survive. But giving the pest a head-start often means that the army arrives when the battle is already lost. With Nutrimite, a unique food for predatory mites introduced by Biobest in 2013, we generated a paradigm shift in biological control. For the first time predatory mites could be used preventatively. Nutrimite allows to build up large populations of predators before the pest arrives,” says Felix Wäckers, Biobest R&D director.

Nutrimite applications on the rise
“We see Nutrimite gaining ground in different crops and in combination with different predatory mites”, says Felix. “Predatory mites that respond strongly to supplementary feeding include A. swirskii, A. degenerans and, of course, Euseius gallicus. The latter species, which is marketed under the name Dyna-Mite G-System, is a mite that shows a particularly explosive population growth in response to Nutrimite. We’ve developed tailor-made strategies for different crops. To name a few examples: in roses, the combination of Euseius gallicus with Nutrimite is a real game changer and is now being used commercially by many leading rose growers. In cucumber, growers in different parts of the world are very satisfied with the combination of A. swirskii and Nutrimite. More recently we have started to see big benefits with Nutrimite in pepper. Starting with Nutrimite before the crop is flowering allows good biological whitefly protection with A. swirskii from the very beginning of the crop cycle. It also allows to build a strong population of A. degenerans when thrips and spider mite are the main challenges. Interestingly, we even see strong NutrimiteTM benefits when the crop is flowering and produces pollen itself. This can be explained by the fact that predatory mites prefer Nutrimite over many other pollen types.”

Higher numbers, better distribution
Another advantage lies in the fact that Nutrimite is applied on all plant parts. That allows for a much better distribution of the predatory mites in the crop as compared to untreated crops where pollen is only present in the flowers. The resulting cropwide distribution of predatory mites improves the chances that they come across pests like whitefly or spider mites. Also when we compare the use of Nutrimite to breeding sachets, the more even distribution is an important trump card. In the case of breeding sachets, predatory mite breeding is contained inside a small bag. When we use Nutrimite, the predators breed throughout the crop, and that is of course where they will encounter pests. To highlight this advantage we have coined the phrase: “breed them where you need them”.

Nutrimite – the right pollen for the job
Felix also has a lot to say when it comes to the crucial impact of pollen type and quality on the success of predatory mite feeding. “When developing Nutrimite we were specifically looking for a source of pollen that combines a high nutritional value to predatory mites with a low suitability to thrips pests.” Previous studies had already highlighted that the pollen used in Nutrimite is particularly suitable for predatory mites, while it is very low on the thrips menu preference. “Moreover, due to its production process and our logistics chain, we can guarantee that Nutrimite is fresh and totally free of pesticide residues. We’ve compared it to other predatory mite feeding products that have since been introduced in the market, and we’ve seen that Nutrimite stands out in terms of stimulating predatory mite numbers.”

Power in numbers
“We see statements out there claiming that applying Nutrimite is risky because it could cause populations of thrips to increase. I understand that some may see the Nutrimite concept as a threat to current release strategies, in which growers have to purchase and release more predatory mites. However, there are many independent studies that counter these concerns. Just look at the graph below, in which the impact of two pollen types on a predatory mite and on thrips, and you see how strongly the balance of Nutrimite is shifted towards feeding predators. As a result, Nutrimite stimulates predatory mite populations much more than thrips populations. And it is the ratio of predatory mites to thrips that ultimately determines the efficacy of pest control. That principle was already described in depth by Paul van Rijn, a Dutch researcher who is an internationally recognized expert in this field. The title of the 2002 paper sums it up nicely: how plants benefit from providing food to predators even when it is also edible to herbivores.”

Source: Van Rijn and Tanigoshi, 1999 in Experimental and Applied Acarology; Hulshof and Vänninen, 2003 in Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Thysanoptera.

When and how to feed Nutrimite?
Over the last few years, Biobest’s technical team has developed a wealth of experience with regard to dosage, application techniques and application frequency. Your Biobest advisor is best placed to provide tailor made advice. The most appropriate dose rate is usually 500 g/ha. Overall, most applications are done with the Makita in combination with the NutriApp. For small surfaces, a small manual blower is available. The goal of Nutrimite is to support the establishment of a strong predatory mite population in the absence of pests. In the absence of pest pressure, one application every two weeks will keep the predatory mite population in great shape. As with all biocontrol strategies, we always recommend careful monitoring. Once pest pressure has reached a certain level, the predatory mites will have an alternative food source and Nutrimite feeding can be put on hold.

For more information
Biobest Belgium NV
Ilse Velden 18
2260 Westerlo - Belgium
T +32 14 25 79 80
F +32 14 25 79 82

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