The effects of overhead and drip tube irrigation on twospotted spider mite (TSMs) (Tetranychus urticae Koch) and predatory mite (PMs) (Phytoseiulus persimilis Athias-Henriot) populations, as well as the biological control of TSMs by PMs, were investigated on Impatiens wallerana Hook. f. `Impulse Orange'. To determine the effects of the two irrigation methods on TSM populations, plants were inoculated with female TSMs 6 weeks after seeding. Plants were then irrigated twice every three days, and TSM counts were taken 3 weeks later. To assess the effects of irrigation method on PMs, plants were inoculated with TSMs 6 weeks after seeding, PMs were released 10 days later, plants were irrigated about once per day, and the number of predatory mites on plants was counted 3 weeks after release. To assess the effects of irrigation method on the biological control of TSMs by PMs, plants were inoculated with TSMs and PMs were released as before, but then plants were irrigated either three times every 2 days or three times every 4 days using either drip or overhead irrigation. The number of TSMs on plants and the number of leaves showing TSM feeding injury were measured 3 weeks after predator release. Overhead watering significantly reduced TSM and PM populations as much as 68- and 1538-fold, respectively, compared to drip irrigation with microtubes. Perhaps more important, overhead watering with or without predators significantly reduced the number of leaves sustaining TSM feeding injury as much as 4-fold compared to drip irrigation. These results confirm the common observation that TSM infestations and injury may be reduced by irrigation systems that wet plant foliage. However, predators still reduced TSMs even though overhead irrigation had a suppressive effect on predatory mites. Predators are particularly useful for reducing TSM injury when plants are watered infrequently. Overhead watering could be used in tandem with biological control as a component of an integrated crop management program for TSMs in ornamental greenhouses by rapidly lowering TSM population levels in hot spots before PMs are released.
Associate professor of horticulture; corresponding author; e-mail email@example.com.