This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Beating the Potato Tuber Moth

Adult Potato Tuber Moth

The Potato Tuber Moth, Phthorimaea operculella, is quickly earning a bad reputation among potato growers and gardeners in the United States. However, its rise to infamy may well be close to an end through its exposure to a type of insect pathogen called a granulovirus. In July, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Wapato, Washington, began testing the granulovirus' potential to biologically control the moth's caterpillar stage, which feeds on both the potato plant and its tubers. Once ingested, the granulovirus could put a stop to such feeding by liquefying the caterpillar's tissues—starting from the inside out—in ten to twenty days. Except for a few other Potato Tuber Moth relatives, this highly specific pathogen does not infect other insects, nor humans or other mammals, according to Lawrence Lacey, an entomologist with the ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory, Wapato.

There, Lacey and ARS colleague entomologist Steven Arthurs, are studying ways to biologically produce and formulate the granulovirus as a bio-pesticide product that potato growers and gardeners could spray on their crops before harvest when synthetic insecticides are not used. Another potential use is on stored potatoes. Although the granulovirus is already used in other countries to protect stored potatoes from infestation, it is not commercially available in the United States and limited research has been done investigating the pathogen's pre-harvest potential. Besides the granulovirus, which is now being field-tested under a federal experimental-use permit, Lacey's group is also examining the biological control potential of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, two species of insect-specific nematodes, and the fungus Muscodor albus.

Happy Gardening



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