Several FABIans, international collaborators and industry partners were in Lothair, Mpumalanga during the weeks of 11-14 and 17-21 October to set up a mating disruption trial of Cossid moth in Eucalyptus nitens plantations.

Participants on this fieldtrip consisted of a diverse and vibrant team including FABI Postdoctoral Research Fellows, Dr Olabimpe Orubuloye and Dr Quentin Guignard, PhD students Ms Vaylen Hlaka and Ms Luki-Marie Scheepers, MSc student Ms Alishia Van Heerden, Tree Protection Co-operative Programme (TPCP) field extension manager Ms Sandisiwe Jali, Sappi personnel Mr Siphephelo Phungula and Mr Siyabonga Dube, Prof. Jeremy Allison of the Canadian Forest Service and a FABI extra-ordinary Professor, and Dr Peter McGhee from Pacific Biocontrol Corporation, USA.

The aim of the field trip was primarily to deploy synthetic pheromone rope dispensers (ISOMATE - COSMX311, Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Ltd., Japan) in E. nitens compartments, to evaluate their efficacy in Cossid moth mating disruption. The pheromone rope dispensers were deployed in four E. nitens compartments infested with Cossid moth at several densities per hectare in previously mapped-out treatment plots. The timing of the deployment of pheromone rope dispensers was targeted at the adult flight season which usually starts in September, peaks in November and ends in late December.

The Cossid moth, Coryphodema tristis, is native to South Africa and is an important wood boring pest of commercial Eucalyptus nitens plantations with significant economic consequences. Since the larvae spend the majority of their life cycle within the stem, control is challenging and primarily involves harvesting E. nitens that are more than seven years of age as losses are greater in older stands. The major roles that pheromones play in the ecology of many insects, and their high selectivity and low toxicity make them good candidates to explore in the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable pest management tools such as mating disruption.

Mating disruption has mainly been applied to agricultural commodities, in particular, orchard crops. This is the first attempt to use mating disruption in plantation forests in South Africa. This research involves collaboration with Sappi Southern Africa Ltd., Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Ltd. Japan, Pacific Biocontrol, US, and the Canadian Forest Service, Canada. Special thanks to everyone who volunteered to join this trip and worked really hard to deploy the dispensers.

It was great to have Prof. Allison in-person in FABI after his last visit to launch the Applied Chemical Ecology Satellite Laboratory in March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restricted movement. We also appreciate the opportunity to benefit from Dr McGhee’s expertise in mating disruption; this was his first visit to FABI and, hopefully, the beginning of a long-term collaboration.