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
Behavioral, ecological and evolutionary aspects of pest arthropods and their natural enemies are the research topics of this group. Mites are used as model organisms to investigate predator-prey interactions among pest species (spider mites) and their natural enemies (predatory mites) at individual and population level.A current research project is dealing with the climate warming effects on a biocontrol agent, which is not native in Europe. This predatory mite Amblydromalus limonicus can be legally used in Austria for thrips control in greenhouses since 2015. This species, however, was found in Spain in 2011 in apple orchards, although it had not a legal permission for introductions in the open field. Thus, the objective of the research project is to evaluate the establishment potential of A. limonicus in Austria under prospective climate conditions as predicted by climate warming scenarios.
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.
Weeds may significantly reduce quantity and quality of yield depending on agricultural production system, environmental parameters and management system. However, weeds may also provide advantages for agriculture by providing ecosystem services like erosion control or the promotion of pest control by providing food for natural enemies. Research goal is the synergetic linkage of weed control with weed ecology to reduce yield loss and increase ecosystem service provision. Currently, we investigate the consequences of management intensity in vineyards on weed communities, wild bees and soil biota and how these organisms interact and consequently affect ecosystem service provision (BiodivERsA project VineDivers www.vinedivers.eu).