Researchers use oxygenated phosphine fumigation to control insect pests

Jul 12, 2012 By Sharon Durham
Researchers use oxygenated phosphine fumigation to control insect pests
ARS scientists have found that an oxygen-phosphine combination could be an environmentally friendly alternative to methyl bromide to control a number of insects pests like the western flower thrip on harvested fruits and vegetables. Photo courtesy of P.M.J. Ramakers, Applied Plant Research, Bugwood.org.

A fumigant called phosphine is more effective at controlling insects when it's combined with oxygen, according to findings by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist. The oxygen-phosphine combination could be an environmentally friendly alternative to methyl bromide for combating pests on harvested fruits and vegetables.

Entomologist Yong-Biao Liu with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Salinas, Calif., found that oxygenated phosphine fumigation effectively controlled several during laboratory studies. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

In the ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit at Salinas, Liu tested phosphine fumigation under high levels of oxygen against four pests: western flower thrips adults and larvae, leafminer pupae, grape mealybug eggs, and Indianmeal moth eggs and pupae. The four species represent insect types and life stages for which quarantine treatments are needed.

In 5-hour fumigations with 1,000 parts per million of phosphine at 41 degrees Fahrenheit, control of western flower thrips on lettuce increased from 80 percent to 98 percent when oxygen was increased from 21 percent to 40 percent. When the was increased to 80 percent, 99 percent of the western flower thrips were killed.

Western flower thrips are a common pest of in the United States and are often found on fresh products exported to Taiwan, where it is a quarantined pest. Currently, exported to Taiwan are fumigated with to control western flower thrips, but use of methyl bromide is being phased out due to environmental concerns.

Liu used varying concentrations of oxygen at 41 degrees F and 50 degrees F and found that oxygenated phosphine fumigation was also effective in controlling leafminer pupae, grape mealybug eggs, and Indianmeal and pupae.

Phosphine has been used for more than 80 years as a fumigant to control pests in stored products. It acts slowly against insects. Many insects, especially at egg and pupal stages, are very tolerant of phosphine, and it may take more than 10 days of fumigation treatment to control them. The new treatment would help speed up this process and control insects more quickly.

Read more about this research in the July 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Explore further: Study identifies priority regions for conservation of iconic large marine animals

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Controlling insects in stored grain

Aug 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Aeration -- blowing ambient air through grain storage bins -- has been used for decades to maintain the quality of grain by keeping it cool, as well as to manage stored insect pests. But few ...

Caution urged in storing methyl bromide-treated produce

Aug 01, 2011

Operators of facilities that store or process crops treated with methyl bromide should take extra precautions to protect their workers from postharvest exposure to the fumigant, advise experts at UC Davis, the California ...

Barcoding insects as a way to track and control them

May 02, 2012

Barcodes may bring to mind the sales tags and scanners found in supermarkets and other stores. But U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are using "DNA barcodes" to monitor insects that damage crops ...

Alternatives eyed for methyl bromide

Mar 16, 2011

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists trying to help Florida growers find a replacement for methyl bromide are studying an alternative soil treatment that uses molasses as one of its ingredients.

Recommended for you

Weather-tracking tool helps track migrating insects

1 hour ago

Corn earworms (also known as cotton bollworms) cost cotton producers an estimated $200 million a year in lost crops and control expenses, and they are notoriously hard to track because they migrate at night. ...

Alaska refuge proposes killing invasive caribou

16 hours ago

Federal wildlife officials are considering deadly measures to keep an Alaska big game animal introduced more than 50 years ago to a remote island in the Aleutians from expanding its range.

User comments : 0