Date of Award

12-2004

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

A. Randall Alford

Second Committee Member

Andrei V. Alyokhin

Third Committee Member

James F. Dill

Abstract

The preliminary development of several alternative pest management strategies designed to exploit insect pest-crop plant chemical communication was investigated in greenhouse and field trials between June 2000 and August 2003 in Orono and Stillwater, Maine, respectively. The major goal of this research program was the development of seniochemical-based, ecologically responsible pest management strategies for enhancing sustainable food production.

Specifically, the primary objective was to explore development of sustainable alternatives to conventional insecticide management of Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say) in commercial cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum L., production. A novel synthetic analog of the natural volatile plant chemicals utilized by L. decemlineata in host plant selection enabled us to reduce insecticide use by nearly 50% while maintaining economically-acceptable yield levels. This effort is the first to have developed and utilized synthetic plant volatiles as a means of disrupting plant colonization by insects and the first to demonstrate insect physiological habituation to these chemicals. An additional part of this research effort explored the use of a novel "attracticide" comprised of the synthetic volatile analog and a plant-derived antifeedant. This attracticide was designed to be an attract-and-kill product and proved to be as effective at maintaining yield as topical treatment with a leading commercial insecticide under certain conditions.

The practical application of this research effort is that it seeks ultimately to reduce grower reliance on conventional insecticide use while maintaining economically-acceptable production levels. -The greater purposes of this work are to effectively manage pest populations with reduced insecticide input, to enhance overall sustainability and economic viability of the industry, and to increase overall environmental quality of production areas. In the event that current conventional practices become unavailable, close cooperation between cooperative extension personnel, growers, and industry representatives will be effecting a stable technological shift from conventional to alternative management strategies. The development of a comprehensive, semiochemical-based sustainable pest management program may have far-reaching national and international significance for the entire industry as well as potential application to other crop systems.

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