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Control of Egyptian Broomrape in Processing Tomato: A Summary of 20 Years of Research and Successful Implementation

Eizenberg, Hanan, Goldwasser, Yaakov
Plant disease 2018 v.102 no.8 pp. 1477-1488
Helianthus annuus, Orobanche, carrots, crop losses, crop yield, decision support systems, farmers, field crops, field experimentation, foliar application, germination, greenhouses, haustoria, host plants, irrigation, legumes, parasitic plants, parasitism, prediction, profits and margins, seed dispersal, seed longevity, soil, tomatoes, Israel, Mediterranean region
The obligate root parasitic weeds commonly known as broomrape (Orobanche and Phelipanche spp.) cause severe damage to vegetable and field crops worldwide. Efficient control of these parasites is difficult due to their development and attachment to the host plant (via a specialized organ, the haustorium) under the soil surface and to their unique biological traits of massive seed production, facile seed dispersal, germination only under specific conditions, and seed longevity. The major damage inflicted by the parasites takes place underground, making control extremely challenging. Egyptian broomrape (Phelipanche aegyptiaca) is a devastating pest in the Mediterranean basin, parasitizing a wide host crop range, including tomato, sunflower, legumes, and carrot, resulting in severe crop losses. Twenty years of research have led to the development of integrated smart management strategies for combating this parasite in processing tomato fields. In particular, an explicit decision support system (DSS) designated PICKIT has been developed; this DSS is based on predicting parasitism dynamics and employing a range of selective targeted chemical applications (preplanting incorporation, foliar application, and herbigation). In this feature article, we describe the evolution of this research from the laboratory, through greenhouse and experimental field trials, to large scale commercial fields and the successful assimilation of PICKIT into agricultural practice. The use of PICKIT in fields of processing tomatoes in northern Israel has led to effective control of Egyptian broomrape, even in fields with high infestation levels, resulting in a tomato yield increase of an average of 40 tons ha⁻¹ compared with nontreated plots. In 2016, PICKIT was commercially implemented in 33 fields, totaling 400 ha, giving 95% Egyptian broomrape control and tomato yields of 115 to 145 tons ha⁻¹. The outcome of this research is now enabling farmers to grow tomatoes in Egyptian broomrape-infested fields with assured increased yields and hence high profits.