Soil and foliar application of rock dust as natural control agent for two-spotted spider mites on tomato plants
Mineral-based products represent a valid alternative to synthetic pesticides in integrated pest management. We investigated the effects of a novel granite dust product as an agent for controlling two-spotted spider mites, Tetranychus urticae Koch (Acari: Tetranychidae), on tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum L.). Two-choice tests for repellency and repulsiveness, and no-choice bioassays with different type of applications (soil, foliar, and soil–foliar) were used in order to evaluate performance and action of the product. Evaluation of epidermal micromorphology and mesophyll structure of treated plants and elemental analyses of leaves were performed. In repulsiveness experiments, almost all dust treatments significantly inhibited mites from migrating to and/or settling on the treated leaf. In repellency experiments, foliar and soil dust treatments were not significantly different from control. Significant mortality was observed for all dust treatments in two-choice and in no-choice bioassays, suggesting mites are susceptible to rock dust by contact, and by indirect interaction through the feeding on plants subjected to soil application of rock dust. Leaf epidermal micromorphology and mesophyll structure of treated plants showed structural variation due to mineral accumulation, which was also confirmed by elemental analyses of leaves. These results demonstrate for the first time that granite rock dust interacts with two-spotted spider mites by modifying pest behavior and via acaricidal action, providing more insights in understanding the mechanism of this novel natural product as pest management tool.