Development of insecticide resistance in onion thrips, Thrips tabaci Lindeman (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), populations in onion (Allium spp.) fields and the incidence of the T. tabaci transmitted Iris yellow spot virus have stimulated interest in evaluating alternative management tactics. Effects of straw mulch applied in commercial onion fields in muck areas of western New York were assessed in 2006 and 2007 as a possible onion thrips management strategy. In trials in which no insecticides were applied for thrips control, straw mulch-treated plots supported significantly lower T. tabaci populations compared with control plots. In both years, the action thresholds of one or three larvae per leaf were reached in straw mulch treatments between 7 and 14 d later than in the control. Ground predatory fauna, as evaluated by pitfall trapping, was not increased by straw mulch in 2006; however, populations of the common predatory thrips Aeolothrips fasciatus (L.) (Thysanoptera: Aeolothripidae) were significantly lower in straw mulch plots in both years. Interference of straw mulch in the pupation and emergence of T. tabaci was investigated in the lab and their emergence was reduced by 54% compared with bare soil. In the field the overall yield of onions was not affected by the straw mulch treatment; however, the presence of jumbo grade onions (>77 mm) was increased in 2006, but not in 2007. These results indicate that populations of T. tabaci adults and larvae can be significantly reduced by the use of straw mulch without compromising overall onion yield. The use of this cultural practice in an onion integrated pest management program seems promising.
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Vol. 101 • No. 4