Dec 15, 2017
Sustainable chemical option targets small insects in crops

After successfully controlling white fly, thrips and powdery mildew in multiple field trials, Agrothermal Systems is expanding from viticulture into the broader produce industry.

According to CEO, Marty Fischer, “We now know that we have a sustainable, chemical-free alternative, offering what the produce world has been demanding.”

“Much of what we have learned in viticulture (since 2011) can be confidently applied to an ever-expanding list of produce items. Heat applications (Thermaculture) have been shown to reduce pesticide needsimprove yields, extend storage and shelf life, and improve fruit quality,” Fisher said.

Agrothermal has seen fungicide use cut 50 percent or more during several winegrape trials. Most recently, the company worked with one of the world’s best-known mildew experts, Doug Gubler to develop a protocol alternating Thermaculture with differing fungicides.

Our 2017 replicated trials on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon using heat alternated with fungicide produced the same clean results as a traditional fungicide only protocol, but reduced fungicide use by 50 percent,” Gubler said. “This is the first of two years of trials using a specific protocol, but it is clear the potential for heat treatments in combination with fungicides to control powdery mildew is very promising and one that growers might seriously consider.”

A study, managed by Caltec Ag on white fly in fresh market tomatoes, was completed in late fall 2017. The data tracked pre- and post-treatment counts of nymphs and adults on replicated blocks of test and control green ripe field tomatoes. In the end, the incidence of white fly in heat treated blocks was a fraction of the insect population found in the pesticide treated blocks, and at much less cost.

The study states, “Considering the manpower, chemical costs and machine hours, heat treatment could be a viable alternative to chemical control particularly if a grower wanted to grow a tomato crop organically.”

According to a 2007 Thrip study conducted by Catholic University in Chile, heat was more effective on thrips in table grapes than pesticides. This result was also confirmed during 2017 demonstration trials in Mexico on thrip populations within green onion plantings.

The company has announced it is now developing row crop equipment in both Mexico and Europe that will begin field use by June of 2018. Current and new machine designs will be capable of treating both horizontal crops such as onions, strawberries and herbs as well as vertically grown crops such as blackberries, raspberries and trellised orchards.

Agrothermal Systems, based in Napa, California, is a DBA of Lazo TPC Global, a California corporation. Agrothermal Systems has pioneered the use of Thermaculture treatment services as a sustainable, low cost technology to increase yields, reduce pesticide needs and improve crop qualities. The company holds patents on Thermal Pest Control and has patents pending on other aspects of the technology.

Photo above: Controlling thrips in green onions. Photo: Agrothermal Systems





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