From Augmentation to Conservation of Entomopathogenic Nematodes: Trophic Cascades, Habitat Manipulation and Enhanced Biological Control of Diaprepes abbreviatus Root Weevils in Florida Citrus Groves

R. J. Stuart, F. E. El-Borai, L. W. Duncan

Abstract


The use of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) for management of the root weevil, Diaprepes abbreviatus, in Florida citrus groves is considered a biological control success story and typically involves augmentation in which EPN are applied inundatively as biopesticides to quickly kill the pest. However, recent evidence indicates that efficacy of EPN applications in Florida citrus depends on soil type. They are very effective in the well drained coarse sands of the Central Ridge but often less so in poorly drained fine-textured soils of the Flatwoods. Moreover, groves on the Central Ridge can harbor rich communities of endemic EPN that might often suppress weevil populations below economic thresholds, whereas Flatwoods groves tend to have few endemic EPN and frequent weevil problems. Current research is examining the ecological dynamics of EPN in Florida citrus groves, the potential impact of EPN augmentation on soil food webs, especially endemic EPN, and whether habitat manipulation and inoculation strategies might be effective for conserving and enhancing EPN communities to achieve long-term control in problem areas. Conservation biological control could extend the usefulness of EPN in Florida citrus and be especially appropriate for groves with persistent weevil problems.

Keywords


biological control; citrus; conservation; Diaprepes abbreviatus; ecology; entomopathogenic nematode; Florida; food web; Heterorhabditis; management; manure; mulch; root weevil; soil; Steinernema; suppression; trophic cascades

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