Side effects of two citrus essential oil formulations on a generalist insect predator, plant and soil enzymatic activities.
The widespread use of chemical pesticides for crop protection, despite having contributed to ensure food security, have shown to exert negative impacts on the environment and on human health. In addition, the frequent emergence of resistance to pesticides and their adverse effects toward non-target organisms have generated the need to develop novel ecofriendly tools for pest control. Among these, plant essential oils (EOs) may play a central role in arthropod pest control. Recently, two formulations (Emulsion and PEG-nanoparticles) of three citrus EOs (lemon, mandarin and sweet orange) showed a promising potential against Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), a key tomato pest. Here, we evaluated the side effects of these experimental insecticides active substances toward (i) the generalist predator of several tomato pests, Nesidiocoris tenuis Reuter (Hemiptera: Miridae); (ii) the soil enzymatic activities (dehydrogenase activity, alkaline phosphomonoesterase, acid phosphomonoesterase and urease) and (iii) the tomato plant antioxidant enzymes (ascorbate peroxidase, catalase, superoxide dismutase and polyphenol oxidase). Among the tested formulations, mandarin EO-based insecticide presented a significant impact on the predator survival and reproduction. Conversely, all the tested compounds proved to be harmless for the soil enzymatic and the plant antioxidant activities. Overall, these results provide solid bases for the development of novel biopesticides for sustainable tomato crop protection.