Dr. Oscar E. Liburd
Small fruit and vegetable pest management with emphasis on blueberry pests
Blueberries provide an option for growers to diversify from citrus into other crops, as well as economic opportunities in areas where citrus cannot be grown, particularly in North Central Florida. The Florida blueberry industry is at approximately $80 million. The development of the early ripening southern highbush blueberry cultivars has created a niche for growers in Florida who can produce high quality berries as early as late March when prices are extremely high and other key blueberry producing states cannot compete for market shares. However, further growth and development of the blueberry industry in Florida is limited due to the high incidence of insect pests including spotted wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii (Matsumura) flower thrips, Frankliniella spp. and blueberry gall midge, Dasineura oxycoccana (Johnson). The focus of the research is to develop and refine management programs for the most important insect pests that are causing economic damage in blueberries. Current research is focused on developing detection (monitoring) techniques, studying the movement of pests from wild hosts and adjacent habitats into cultivated areas, determining economic threshold levels and identifying reduced-risk tools (insecticides) that can be used in an IPM program for these key pests.
Strawberry is the most important small fruit crop in Florida and the industry is valued more than 380 million dollars. Our strawberry pest management program has focused on twospotted spider mite management in conventional systems and developing tools for organic strawberry production. Our research has focused on site specific mite management (spot spraying) for twospotted mites and developing technology to management mite populations in hot spot areas versus whole field management. We have also been investigating predatory mite movement and potential for biological control of twospotted spider mites.
Vegetable pest management: Cucurbits (melons and squash) are major vegetable crops grown in Florida with a farm gate value in excess of $300 million annually. It is estimated that hemipteran pests (sucking insects) mainly aphids and whiteflies, spread over 90% of the insect-borne diseases in cucurbits. The primary goal of the vegetable program is to investigate more sustainable (cultural) approaches for managing whiteflies and aphids in cucurbits. We have made significant progress in developing cultural tactics for managing key vegetable pests and in identifying diseases that are spread by hemipteran pests.