Ecologists study how populations are regulated, while scientists studying biological pest control apply population regulation processes to reduce numbers of harmful organisms: an organism (a natural enemy) is used to reduce the population density of another organism (a pest). Finding an effective biological control agent among the tens to hundreds of natural enemies of a pest is a daunting task. Evaluation criteria help in a first selection to remove clearly ineffective or risky species from the list of candidates. Next, we propose to use an aggregate evaluation criterion, the pest kill rate, to compare the pest population reduction capacity of species not eliminated during the first selection. The pest kill rate is the average daily lifetime killing of the pest by the natural enemy under consideration. Pest kill rates of six species of predators and seven species of parasitoids of Tuta absoluta were calculated and compared. Several natural enemies had pest kill rates that were too low to be able to theoretically reduce the pest population below crop damaging densities. Other species showed a high pest reduction capacity and their potential for practical application can now be tested under commercial crop production conditions.
|Publication status||Published - 24 May 2021|