Development and validation of an integrated pest management strategy against the invasive South American tomato leaf miner, Tuta absoluta in south India.
Tomato is one of the most popular vegetables grown in South Asian countries, including India. Introduction of any invasive species to a new environment has always resulted in serious ecological and economical threats globally. One such widely effected invasive pest in tomato cultivation is Tuta absoluta, which was reported infesting tomato fields in India in 2014 for the first time. In order to reduce the over reliance on chemical pesticides, the effectiveness of an integrated pest management (IPM) package including microbial pesticides (Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki, Beauveria bassiana), neem products and a chemical pesticide, chlorantraniliprole had been evaluated. Multi-location trials were conducted for two seasons in 2018 and 2019. The findings revealed that the effect of the IPM package in reducing T. absoluta infestation was quite promising in all the experimental trials. The performance of the IPM package was on par with the Farmers' practice (calendar based application of chemical pesticides) in reducing T. absoluta infestation, without any compromise in the marketable yield. The excessive spraying of chemical pesticides in the Farmers' practice led to an increase in the protection cost at all the experimental sites, which was nearly two times higher than that of the IPM package. Hence, the IPM package can be considered as effective and economical in managing invasive T. absoluta on tomato in South India.