Some recent high-load, low-density pheromone-release devices emit an ethanolic blend of pheromone directly onto crop foliage to control insect pests by mating disruption. This study characterized the phytotoxicity associated with deposition of some pheromonal compounds in concentrated drops on the foliage of trees bearing aerosol release devices. The relative toxicity of straight-chained alkanes, alcohols, aldehydes, and acetates with chain lengths varying from C-2 to≈C-20 was quantified in the laboratory by the severity of necrotic lesions. The order of severity for phytotoxicity caused by pheromonal compounds was alkanes ≪ acetates = aldehydes ≤ alcohols. Within compound classes tested, pheromones with chain lengths of 6–13 carbons were the most phytotoxic. Phytotoxicity was not detectable at dosages <1 mg administered in 10 μl of ethanol. Phytotoxicity of pheromones was highly correlated with presence of both a hydrophilic and lipophilic molecular domain. We postulate nonspecific membrane disruption as a likely mode of action for pheromonal phytotoxicity. Limited attempts to remediate this effect by changing carrier solvents or adding surfactants, spreaders, or nonvolatile diluents were not successful. Because the toxic action of pheromones upon plant tissues appears relatively benign, and growers have not been adverse to localized phytotoxicity to foliage and fruits on two trees per 0.4 ha, we propose that limited phytotoxicity associated with first-generation aerosol dispenser technology can be viewed as nonthreatening.
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Vol. 94 • No. 5