That’s what a recent study by entomology professor Dr. Lance Osborne says. The study, funded by EPA, found that papaya plants can be used to host a wasp that attacks silverleaf whiteflies, an insect that is a major pest of tomatoes. The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Biological Control.
The parasitic wasps were able to fly from papaya plants located in the corners of greenhouses to attack silverleaf whiteflies on tomatoes located in the center. Successful tomato production occurred without the use of pesticides.
Insecticides can be used, but with fewer applications, Osborne said, as part of an integrated pest management system that uses the best methods available to solve pest problems while mitigating negative environmental effects. The system is known as a banker plant system because it stores, or banks, extra prey for the biological control organism. The wasp works by laying eggs in immature whiteflies, killing the whitefly when the wasp offspring hatches inside of it and feeds on its insides before emerging.
The system has been used in a commercial herb, tomato, cucumber, eggplant and lettuce greenhouses around the state well as in a commercial poinsettia greenhouse, where it has also been effective.
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