This research focused on the influence of insecticides on gas exchange, chlorophyll content, vegetative and floral development, and overall plant quality of gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii var. `Festival Salmon'). Insecticides from five chemical classes were applied weekly at 1× and 4× the recommended concentrations. Insecticides used were: abamectin (Avid® 0.15 EC), acephate (Orthene® Turf, Tree & Ornamental Spray 97), bifenthrin (Talstar® Nursery Flowable), clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil (Triact® 70), and spinosad (Conserve® SC). Phytotoxicity occurred in the form of leaf chlorosis on all acephate treatments, with the greatest damage occurring at the 4× concentration. Photosynthesis and stomatal conductance were significantly reduced in plants treated with neem oil extract. Plants treated with the neem oil extract (1× and 4×) flowered later and had reduced growth [lower shoot dry mass (DM) and total DM]. Plants that received 4× the recommended concentration of neem oil extract had reduced leaf area, thicker leaves (lower specific leaf area), higher leaf chlorophyll content, and reduced flower production, as determined by flower number and flower DM. Plants treated with acephate 4× concentration were the lowest quality plants due to extensive phytotoxicity (leaf burn), which also reduced photosynthesis. The highest quality plants were treated with spinosad and abamectin due to zero phytotoxicity and/or no thrips damage (thrips naturally migrated into the greenhouse). The control plants and plants treated with bifenthrin 1× were not marketable due to thrips damage; however, plant growth characteristics and gas exchange were not statistically different.
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