Down with cotton pests, save the predators

Life should become harder for insect pests of cotton if researchers can successfully help spiders and other predators to become more deadly.

Efforts to improve the pest control performance of insects and spiders which prey on Helicoverpa — the main insect pest of cotton — received a boost with the addition of Sarah Mansfield to the CSIRO Entomology’s cotton team based at Narrabri, NSW

By making predators more effective, Dr Mansfield hopes to reduce the cotton industry’s dependence on insecticides.

“The first thing is to find out just what predators are there,” she said. “Then we can look at the effect farming practices such as tillage and insecticide use have on their abundance, and make recommendations that are compatible with good crop and soil management and also encourage the predators.”

Originally from New Zealand, Dr Mansfield comes to the CSIRO from the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed her PhD.

In New Zealand, Dr Mansfield studied the effects of the mosquito fish, Gambusia, which had been introduced into New Zealand waterways to control mosquitoes.

“At Berkeley, I was looking at possible non-target effects from using the parasitoid wasp Trichogramma platneri as a bio-control agent of coddling moth in Californian walnut plantations,” she said.

Dr Mansfield said she will draw on this strong background in dealing with beneficial insects to tease out information on the predators of Helicoverpa in cotton.

CSIRO Entomology’s cotton research includes collaboration with a number of organisations under the umbrella of the Australian Cotton CRC, and is supported by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation.

Contact: Dr Jim Cullen, CSIRO Entomolgy 02 6246 4025