Fields of research - location Gregor Mendel House Vienna
The research group addresses current pest problems in agricultural and horticultural practice, studying the biology and ecology of agricultural arthropod pests.
Thematic focus is the chemical ecology and the behaviour of relevant pests on their host plants.
Objects of the current research are two cosmopolitan Thysanopteran (thrips) species with extraordinary potential for damage: Frankliniella occidentalis and Thrips tabaci are both economically relevant pests on many horticultural and agricultural crops and therefore especially interesting candidates for case studies with practical relevance.
Our special interest is the function of secondary plant compounds as signals mediating interactions between arthropods and plants. We research fundamental as well as applied aspects of using natural compounds as attractants, repellents or deterrents to manipulate the host selection and acceptance behaviour of pests.
Based on the basic knowledge gained in our research we point out the perspectives on behavioural control measures in innovative environmentally friendly plant protection concepts: our aim is the future use of bioactive plant compounds in sustainable pest control strategies for agricultural as well as horticultural crops.
Biological pest control
In focus of this group are behavioural, ecological and evolutionary aspects of pest arthropods and their natural enemies. We use mites as both pathogens (spider mites) as well as beneficial organisms (predatory mites) as model organisms to investigate the predator-prey interaction and its impact on their population dynamics.
Currently we analyse the putative impact of climate change on use of exotic beneficial organisms in Austria. The predatory mite Amblydromalus limonicus, which is not indigenous in Europe, is commercially available in Austria since 2015 as a thrips-predator. This species was found in Spain in 2011 although there it is not allowed to be used for biological control. Thus the possible invasion potential of this mite in Austria should be investigated.
Plant protection in viticulture
Aim of this research group is to develop new approaches enabling reduction of the pesticides usage by targeted pathogen control in both biological and integrated crop production. Prediction models for the most important pathogenes in viticulture are of fundamental importance.
The current focus of research is put on powdery mildew on grapevine in particular on its biology. An important question is, which of the two infective strains in Austrian viticulture is more relevant. We investigate which strain is responsible for the primary infection. In this context the assessment of local weather conditions in vineyards play a major role.
The collected data shall be integrated in models for powdery mildew of grapevines in order to help wine-growers controlling these kind of desease more effectively.