Research Article: Impacts of human-related practices on Ommatissus lybicus infestations of date palm in Oman

Date Published: February 6, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Khalifa M. Al-Kindi, Paul Kwan, Nigel R. Andrew, Mitchell Welch, Manuel Joaquín Reigosa.

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171103

Abstract

Date palm cultivation is economically important in the Sultanate of Oman, with significant financial investments coming from both the government and private individuals. However, a widespread Dubas bug (DB) (Ommatissus lybicus Bergevin) infestation has impacted regions including the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Russia, and Spain, resulting in widespread damages to date palms. In this study, techniques in spatial statistics including ordinary least squares (OLS), geographically weighted regression (GRW), and exploratory regression (ER) were applied to (a) model the correlation between DB infestations and human-related practices that include irrigation methods, row spacing, palm tree density, and management of undercover and intercropped vegetation, and (b) predict the locations of future DB infestations in northern Oman. Firstly, we extracted row spacing and palm tree density information from remote sensed satellite images. Secondly, we collected data on irrigation practices and management by using a simple questionnaire, augmented with spatial data. Thirdly, we conducted our statistical analyses using all possible combinations of values over a given set of candidate variables using the chosen predictive modelling and regression techniques. Lastly, we identified the combination of human-related practices that are most conducive to the survival and spread of DB. Our results show that there was a strong correlation between DB infestations and several human-related practices parameters (R2 = 0.70). Variables including palm tree density, spacing between trees (less than 5 x 5 m), insecticide application, date palm and farm service (pruning, dethroning, remove weeds, and thinning), irrigation systems, offshoots removal, fertilisation and labour (non-educated) issues, were all found to significantly influence the degree of DB infestations. This study is expected to help reduce the extent and cost of aerial and ground sprayings, while facilitating the allocation of date palm plantations. An integrated pest management (IPM) system monitoring DB infestations, driven by GIS and remote sensed data collections and spatial statistical models, will allow for an effective DB management program in Oman. This will in turn ensure the competitiveness of Oman in the global date fruits market and help preserve national yields.

Partial Text

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) cultivation is economically important in the Sultanate of Oman, with significant financial investments coming from both the government and private individuals. However, a widespread Dubas bug (Ommatissus lybicus Bergevin) infestation has impacted regions including the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Russia and Spain, resulting in substantial damage to date palms [1–6]. Dubas bugs are yellowish green in colour; females range in length from 5 to 6 mm, and males range from 3 to 3.5 mm. Male and female bugs are primarily distinguished by a spot on the females. Moreover, male bugs have a tapered abdomen and larger wings relative to the females. Nymphs have five instars and each instar has waxy filaments. However, the nature and level of DB infestation vary with location, conditions and human-related practices.

The results of the OLS exploratory method revealed a model that confidently predicts 70% of the impact of DB infestation on the date palms in the study area. Realistically, a higher R2 value would have predicted even higher confidence in the model; however, OLS specifies a minimum of 50.13% in order to pass. This model is well above that goal. The selection model represents the best of 6,884 trials and resulted in a combination of factors that include row spacing (the distance between palm trees), palm density (palms per hectare), insecticide application, irrigation type (flood, borehole and drip), fertilisation (manure and urea), offshoots removal, intercropping (alfalfa, grass and maize) and date palm farm services (pruning, thinning, removing weeds, removing unproductive trees and clean farm practices).

This study has determined that many human-related cultural practices adopted in date plantations significantly impact infestation levels of DB on date palms, which should be suitably modified in order to reduce critical infestation levels. DB inhabits certain areas because those areas have suitable breeding and survival conditions. For every single plant and animal species, organisms inhabit sites that are most suitable for their needs, including DB.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171103

 

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