Onion thrips ( Thrips tabaci) is a major pest in organic onion production and effective integrated pest management strategies are lacking. Our objective was to evaluate pest management programs consisting of several different tactics: (1) two onion plant cultivars with semi-glossy leaves (“Rossa di Milano” and B5336AxB5351C) and one with waxy leaves (“Bradley”), (2) silver reflective and white plastic mulches, and (3) with or without an application of a biopesticide (spinosad + neem oil tank mix). Thrips densities were counted weekly and bulbs weighed at harvest. The application of the biopesticide had the most significant reduction in thrips densities and increase in yield. The cultivar “Rossa di Milano” had lower thrips densities compared with “Bradley” and B5336AxB5351C, but also had the lowest yield. Reflective mulch had lower thrips densities than white mulch but had no effect on yield. None of the other tactics provided any significant additional benefits to thrips management. While biopesticides will still be a key component to onion thrips management programs, their application frequency should be further optimized.
Onion thrips ( Thrips tabaci Lindeman) is a major pest in organic onion production and effective integrated pest management strategies are lacking. Our objective was to evaluate combinations of semi-glossy (“Rossa di Milano” and B5336AxB5351C) and waxy (“Bradley”) onion cultivars with reflective mulch, with or without biopesticides (spinosad + neem oil tank mix), to manage T. tabaci in organic onion production. Thrips densities were assessed weekly and bulbs graded and weighed at harvest. Onions sprayed with spinosad + neem oil had fewer T. tabaci (adults: 74% (2019); larvae: 40% (2018), 84% (2019) and produced higher yields (13% (2018), 23% (2019)) than onions that were unsprayed, regardless of mulch type or onion cultivar. “Rossa di Milano” had relatively fewer adult and larval thrips populations compared with “Bradley” (21% (2018), 32% (2019)) and B5336AxB5351C. However, “Rossa di Milano” had the lowest marketable yield in both years. Reflective mulch reduced densities on certain dates in both years compared to white mulch, but the largest and most consistent reduction only occurred in 2019. Reflective mulch had no impact on bulb yield. While spinosad + neem oil reduced thrips numbers and increased yield alone, none of the treatment combinations were effective at suppressing populations of thrips. Future T. tabaci management in organic onions will require optimization of the available effective biopesticides.