Beneficials Sweet on Alyssum

INTERPLANTING SWEET alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is an excellent way to promote natural biocontrol of a wide array of landscape, orchard, field and garden pests like aphids, stinkbugs, leaf and fruit worm caterpillars, etc. Companion planting has ancient roots, figuring in the writings of the Greek Theophrastus in 300 B.C. and the Roman Pliny (Plinius Secundus) in 1 A.D. Though popular in organic gardening and farming, floral interplants escaped serious scientific scrutiny until recent years.

Australia’s wine grape growers are among those who take their sweet alyssum companion plantings very seriously. At Australia’s EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation ecological engineers and entomologists like Geoff Gurr of Charles Sturt University are fine-tuning companion planting. Firstly, you need to choose companion interplants that supply nectar, shelter and other resources to beneficial predators and parasites but not to pest species.

The Aussies focused their scientific studies on a Trichogramma species parasitizing and destroying the eggs of the lightbrown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana), a key pest of Australian vineyards. In “clean” vineyards where weeds and ground covers are destroyed by herbicides or cultivation, biocontrol species like Trichogramma may survive as few as two days, versus three days with water only and up to 20 days with sweet alyssum (the best ground cover tested). Alyssum flowers doubled the number of moth eggs parasitized over a 10 day period. In contrast, when the alyssum plants were deflowered the Trichogramma perished and there was little biocontrol.

But there is more to the story. “Not only is plant species important, but the cultivar within the species is critical,” Gurr told an Entomological Society of America annual meeting. For example, Trichogramma survive far longer on white-flowered alyssum cultivars compared to purple and other colors. Alyssum also boosted predators without aiding the apple moths, which was not the case for every ground cover interplant tested.

Most landscape and cropping systems have not been subjected to the same level of ecological and laboratory investigation as Australian wine grapes. Thus, Rincon-Vitova and other insectaries selling beneficial insects generally recommend blends of flowering plants supplying floral nectar throughout the season.

8 Responses to Beneficials Sweet on Alyssum

  1. […] Native long-horned bees (Melissodes bimaculata) take up some of the slack from depleted honey bee populations in Kentucky by pollinating squash, melon and vegetable crops. Sweet alyssum (white-flowered variety), a flower interplanted in agricultural crops to promote biological control of pests by natural enemies, was heavily favored by the native pollinators; along with bee balm (Monarda didyma) and wood sage (Teucrium canadense). The idea is to plant a succession of flowering resources, including native wildflowers, shrubs and trees, to sustain native pollinators from very early season to late season. Research on habitat plantings is on-going. […]

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    • joelg5 says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      I did a Google translation of your blog, and see that you are tackling some interesting questions vis-a-vis the media.

      In answer to your question: No, this is not paid subject matter.

      I debated with myself whether to do a “donation button,” but decided it would be more of a nuisance to most people. Doing “paid subject matter” would also not work either; I had a brief go at it early on, and concluded it was not the way for me to go (too much angst). Money talks, often loudly; and life is to short (and will be gone quickly, in any event). At least for this blog, it will stay pure. Which is not to say that I won’t work as a hired hand somewhere else, as the need or opportunity or proclivity arises. But at least this expression on this blog will follow my heart, or whim, or whatever it is that motivates…

      Reminds me of a Simpson’s episode where Krusty the Clown decides to go pure and be like Lenny Bruce. Then they drive up to his house with a dump truck full of money, and he endorses an SUV. And reminds me of the Italian series, The Octopus, which delves deeply into the nature of corruption; shows how the pure politician gets corrupted. Are any of us fully immune? Or as The Octopus posits, might there be breaking point for anyone or all of us? Tough philosophical questions about human nature.

      Thank you again, for your comments and question. And good luck with your questionings on your blog.

  3. Hey there! I understand this is kind of off-topic however I needed to ask.

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    • joelg5 says:

      Have not heard this referred to as “a well-established blog” before, but I guess after 4 years that is the case. If you write every day, then you are indeed a writer.

      Sometimes simple, seemingly easy questions do not yield answers right away. Persistence is the key. If you are writing every day already you will likely find something to write about for a blog from re-reading what you have already written; something should leap out at you to expand upon.

      At some point you just need to leave behind your fears and doubts and jump in the water and start swimming. Something will happen, but you cannot predict it all in advance. If you don’t take the leap, you will never know…

  4. […] and mutually beneficial effects. Of course, growing cover crops and beneficial insect plants like sweet alyssum in grape rows is becoming more common. And since ancient times, the Mediterranean areas of Europe and the Middle […]

  5. […] natural pest control. Australian grape vineyards and California lettuce fields have some success interplanting blooming rows of sweet alyssum to provide pollen, nectar and alternative prey for ladybugs, lacewings, hover flies and other […]

  6. Thanks for any other great article. The place else could anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal means of writing?
    I have a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for such information.

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