The bean (P. vulgaris) is considered a principal component of the diet in many countries; it is a source of protein and some essential minerals. It is arguably the most important grain legume for direct human consumption (Islam et al., 2002). In Colombia, bean crops occupied 39,822 ha with an average yield of 2 tons/ha in 2012 (DANE, 2013).
Bean crops can have a high incidence of pests and diseases, causing extensive use of products of chemical synthesis for crop protection to control them. This can lead to an increase in production costs, decreasing the profitability and competitiveness of this crop (Pastor-Corrales and Schwartz, 1994; Singh, 1990). One of the most important pests in this crop is the greenhouse whitefly, T. vaporariorum (Westwood) (Hemiptera: Aleyrodidae) that can cause yield losses up to 50% and is one of the most prevalent pests in the Andean region in the bean crop (Manzano and van Lenteren, 2009; Rendón et al., 2001).The damage this pest generates can be caused by both nymphal instars and adults alike, as they feed on the phloem of plants. Furthermore, T. vaporariorum can also act as a viral diseases vector (Jones, 2003).
At the moment, crop protection is focused on decreasing the use of conventional pesticides and the development of new strategies that can be included in programs of integrated pest management (IPM). From this viewpoint, studies with inert particles such as kaolin have been developed (aluminosilicate clay) to become an alternative for the control of arthropods (Glenn et al., 1999). It has been found that foliar applications of kaolin have a positive effect on Hemiptera control such as Agonoscena targionii (Psyllidae) in pistachio (Saour, 2005), Diaphorina citri (Liviidae) in citrus (Hall et al., 2007) and Cacopsylla pyri (Psyllidae) in pears (Saour et al., 2010).
In addition, use of kaolin can have positive effects on the plant physiology (Glenn and Puterka, 2002). It has also been stated that leaf temperature and/or fruit decreased (Wünsche et al., 2004) and the chlorophyll content increased with kaolin particle film (Segura-Monroy et al., 2015). Furthermore, kaolin helps to regulate plant water relations and promotes water use efficiency (Glenn et al., 2010; Jifon and Syvertsen, 2003).
Studies in temperate regions have shown that kaolin foliar sprays can exert an insecticidal activity. However, this type of research in tropical areas, specifically in Andean regions is virtually nonexistent. This study may provide alternatives for IPM programs in horticultural crops. The aim was to compare the effect of using kaolin and synthetic chemical insecticides on the population dynamics of whitefly T. vaporariorum (Westwood) in beans and the influence of the particle film on leaf transpiration, chlorophyll content, and yield components.
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