Protecting the peppers: Unlocking the potential of the sterile insect technique

Society of Chemical Industry,  Phys.org,  2024.

For the first time, researchers in Canada have investigated the use of the sterile insect technique for controlling populations of the pepper weevil, Anthonomus eugenii, an economically significant crop pest in North America. The paper, published in Pest Management Science, revealed compelling findings on the use of gamma irradiation as a sterilization technique to improve the sustainability and effectiveness of pepper weevil management worldwide. The study was a collaboration between Bruce Power, Nordion Inc., the University of Guelph, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Fruit and Vegetable Growers of Canada.

A. eugenii poses a significant challenge to pepper growers across much of North America, causing millions of dollars worth of crop damage annually. The beetle larvae damage the flowers and immature fruit of capsicum plants, with infestations causing yield losses of up to 90%. Managing A. eugenii populations is particularly challenging as the development of beetle larvae takes place in the protective confines of pepper fruits. Roselyne Labbe, Greenhouse Entomologist at Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada, and corresponding author of the study, explained the challenges in identifying effective strategies to manage populations of A. eugenii. “In prior research, we found that few conventional, reduced-risk, or microbial pesticides could effectively knock down adult populations of the pepper weevil on greenhouse pepper crops.”