Insect pests of blackberries

     Blackberries are a valuable dietary addition, especially for Floridaís growing population of retirees. As a result of the University of Arkansasí blackberry breeding program, new thornless cultivars are more adaptable to the subtropical conditions of north-central Florida, causing the acreage of blackberries in this region to expand. A blackberry growers association was founded in 2009. In order to assist this recent development in the berry industry, six blackberry cultivars (Kiowa, Arapaho, Ouachita, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez) suitable for the north-central Florida climate zone (ca. 400 chill hours) were planted at the UF Plant Science Research and Education Unit in 2007 for the purpose of monitoring potential insect pests of blackberries in the region. The blackberries at the research station are grown on a limited arm rotation shift (LARS) trellis developed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
     As blackberry production expands, pest and disease problems will also increase. Therefore, it is important to develop pest management strategies to address potential threats. Flower thrips, Frankliniella spp., midges, Dasineura spp., and stink bugs (various species) have been reported to be a problem in Georgia and Florida. Throughout the growing season, flower thrips, midges, stink bugs, and mites are monitored and managed under conventional and organic guidelines.

Research Title: Species complex, feeding injury assessment and monitoring of stink bugs in blackberries

     Stink bugs can cause injury to fruits by feeding, resulting in significant quality and yield loss. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts and prefer to feed on immature fruits and seeds. Stink bugs pierce plant tissues with their stylets, causing physical damage that resembles a pinprick. They also inject digestive enzymes to aid in extracting the plantís fluids. This results in injury in the form of discolored spots on the fruit or deformed areas, rendering the fruit unmarketable.
     The overall goal of our blackberry stink bug project is to develop monitoring techniques for various species of stink bugs. We are also assessing feeding injury and the potential for damage on various blackberry varieties.

Specific Objectives

  1. Identify key stink bug species in blackberry.
  2. Evaluate and compare commercially available traps and pheromone lures for monitoring various species of stink bugs.
  3. Assess stink bug feeding injury and potential damage to the fruit.

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