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Integrated Management of the potato tuber moth

A brief description of the research area

In the Andes, stored potatoes are highly infested by the potato tuber moth (PTM) complex, which includes the species Phthorimaea operculella, Symmetrischema tangolias (Andean PTM) and Tecia solanivora (Guatemalan PTM). The unilateral use of pesticides to protect potatoes against these pests greatly contributes to the final production costs and effects the environment and human health. Accordingly, the project intends to develop integrated strategies compatible with farming systems of different agro-ecological zones, to control potato tuber moth species prevailing in the Andean region (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador). Since P. operculella is in the tropics and subtropics the worldwide most spread potato tuber moth species research activities are especially related to this pest.

Since the potato tuber moth species respond differently to climatic conditions and are controlled by different bioagents their distribution and importance in Andean farming systems can be quite different. For the development of site-specific IPM practices decision-making tools based on biological studies are used including: (info) development and validation of temperature-based population models, and (ii) assessment of biotic limiting factors. These studies will allow predictions on the occurrence and the critical infestation periods of the three PTM species. Specifically, the project focuses on the use of biological control agents (entomopathogens) and strives to develop technologies to facilitate their local production and marketing. CIP?s scientists provide training to bio-pesticide producers, extension workers and farmers. Research activities take advantage of existing biological control agents, especially of the endemic granulovirus of P. operculella (PoGV), which has been found to be very effective against this pest. Nevertheless, for the efficient use of this bio-agent mass-propagation and quality standards of the final product have to be improved to reach more farming communities. Recently, granulovirus of T. solanivora were identified in Ecuador and in Venezuela. Research focuses on biological characterization and assesses efficacy and mass propagation. Since S. tangolias, which has become the most dominant PTM pest in potato stores in Bolivia and Peru, is not susceptible to PoGV and no specific granulovirus could be identified, research evaluates the efficacy of other entomopathogens (Bacillus thuringiensis and entomopathogenic fungi) and other types of control (botanicals, quartz-rich sand, etc.) to manage this particular pest in storage. The project collaborates with and brings together research scientists as well as Plant Protection Services from the Andean regions in the aforementioned South American countries.

Specific research areas and expected outputs include:

  • The severity of infestation by the three PTM species in farmer?s fields and potato stores, the feasibility and farmers  potential demands of granulovirus (PoGV) applications in different pilot regions of the Andeans investigated.
  • Temperature-based population models for the three PTM species developed and in different agro-ecological zones validated, and the effects of biotic limiting factors on the population dynamics evaluated.
  • Production, formulation, and quality standards of the current PoGV-product in different Andean countries improved and the potential of granulovirus to control T. solanivora assessed.
  • Other entomopathogens of PTM species identified and tested and strategies for its efficient use developed.
  • Other types of control such as talcum, kaolin, and sand to manage potato tuber moths in assessed.
  • The impact of pesticide use in PTM and natural enemies dynamics in potato crop assessed as well as the effects of structural diversity on pest and natural enemy complex determined.

  • Agroecozone(s)/Location(s):
    Potato growing zones in valleys and low and mid-elevated altitude hillsides of the Andes (Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia); central America, potato growing areas in Africa, Central and Southeast Asia.

    Description of the pests
    The potato tuber moth complex belongs to the order Lepidoptera and family Gelechiidae and include:

    Phthorimaea operculella
    Symmetrischema tangolias
    Tecia solanivora



         Dr. Jürgen Kroschel,;

         Dr. Marc Sporleder,,

         Verónica Cañedo,