Insect-plant-interactions ~ Climate change ~ Biological control ~ Agrobiodiversity ~ Use-of-potential & Risk analysis

Agricultural entomology

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. Both are 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 study 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 potential 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.

contact: Ao. Prof. DI Dr. Elisabeth Koschier (location Vienna)

Biological pest control

Behavioural, 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.

contact: Mag. Dr. Andreas Walzer (location Vienna)