The twospotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae Koch, is a worldwide pest of numerous agronomic and horticultural plants. Sulfur fungicides are known to induce outbreaks of this pest on several crops, although mechanisms associated with sulfur-induced mite outbreaks are largely unknown. Studies were conducted during 2007–2009 in Oregon and Washington hop yards to evaluate the effect of timing of sulfur applications on T. urticae and key predators. In both regions, applications of sulfur made relatively late in the growing season (mid-June to mid-July) were associated with the greatest exacerbation of spider mite outbreaks, particularly in the upper canopy of the crop. The severity of mite outbreaks was closely associated with sulfur applications made during a relatively narrow time period coincident with the early exponential phase of spider mite increase and rapid host growth. A nonlinear model relating mean cumulative mite days during the time of sulfur sprays to the percent increase in total cumulative mite days (standardized to a nontreated plot) explained 58% of the variability observed in increased spider mite severity related to sulfur spray timing. Spatial patterns of spider mites in the Oregon plots indicated similar dispersal of motile stages of spider mites among leaves treated with sulfur versus nontreated leaves; however, in two of three years, eggs were less aggregated on leaves of sulfur-treated plants, pointing to enhanced dispersal. Apart from one experiment in Washington, relatively few predatory mites were observed during the course of these studies, and sulfur-induced mite outbreaks generally occurred irrespective of predatory mite abundance. Collectively, these studies indicate sulfur induces mite outbreaks through direct or indirect effects on T. urticae, mostly independent of predatory mite abundance or toxicity to these predators. Avoidance of exacerbation of spider mite outbreaks by sulfur sprays was achieved by carefully timing applications to periods of low spider mite abundance and slower host development, which is generally early to mid-spring for hop.
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Vol. 41 • No. 3