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by Aaron Cato - July 29, 2022
Broad mite is a serious issue for many Arkansas blackberry growers beginning around
mid-July. This pest issue is pretty unique to the state and most of the damage sightings
have been centered around Arkansas over the last decade. Growers that deal with this
pest can attest to the amount of damage that is possible from this pest, especially
to the primocane fruit crop. Broad mite can be a fickle pest species to manage, and
environmental conditions can shift the occurrence and seriousness of this pest from
year to year.
Just like the last two years (2020-2021), we’ve started to see broad mite damage at
multiple locations beginning in mid-July. The amount of damage varies by location,
but fields with significantly impacted canes are already present in the state. Outlined
below is information about the biology of broad mite, how to monitor for it in your
plantings, and what you can do to control it, which should lead to successful management
of this pest.
Broad mite, Polyphagotarsonemus latus (Banks), is a tarsonemid mite that feeds on new leaf material, flowers, and fruit.
Unlike other mite pest species, such as the two-spotted spider mite (tetranychid mite),
broad mite is microscopic (0.1-0.2 mm) (Picture 1) and generally goes unnoticed until injury on new growth and reproductive structures
is observed. Broad mite is distributed throughout much of the world and occurs as
a pest mainly in tropical or subtropical regions such as the Southeastern United States.
Broad mite has a large host-range and is most notably a pest in greenhouse production
of food and ornamental crops.
Picture 1 – Ambered-colored broad mite adult observed using a dissecting microscope.
Broad mite was first reported as a pest of blackberry in the United States in 2007
and was further realized as a serious threat to commercial blackberry production in
2014 (Vincent et al. 2010; Johnson & Garcia 2015). Commercial plantings in Northeast
Arkansas exhibited large levels of estimated yield loss ($15,000 to $20,000), and
infestations were observed in many states across the Southeastern region. Broad mite
was initially found to infest greenhouse propagation of blackberry plants, and later
infestations of established plants were observed during the early summer months.
Broad mite is a subtropical pest species that does not emerge until the summer in
climates with cold winters. Broad mite emergence likely is different for each blackberry
growing region in the Southeast, and growers should be on the look-out for small pockets
of damage and adults present on leaves. We usually begin to see a few mites in late-May,
and we don’t generally observe injury or significant infestations until mid-July.
This varies from year-to-year and sometimes we don’t see any injury until August.
A good rule of thumb is to begin scouting primocanes when harvest starts on floricanes,
and don’t let up until it starts to cool down.
Broad mite feeding on blackberry is often reminiscent of injury from auxin herbicides
and stunts plants in a similar manner. Malformation of plants is due to the toxic
nature of the mite’s saliva. Feeding leads to stiff, curled leaves with cupped margins,
a decrease in internode length, and potentially leaf death and tip dieback in serious
infestations (Picture 2, Picture 3). Broad mite will also feed on and damage the fruit and flowers of primocane-fruiting
cultivars (Picture 4). Significant yield loss has been observed to primocane crops through a direct effect
on developing flowers and fruit. Broad mite also effects the growth of primocanes
on floricane fruiting varieties and likely leads to significant yield loss in the
following year (Picture 5).
Picture 2 – Early signs of broad mite damage to primocanes terminals. Injury is characterized
by the bronzed coloration and upturned nature of new leaves, along with twisted and
cupped leaves on older nodes.
Picture 3 – Severe injury from broad mite infestations. This primocane was severely stunted,
leaves had begun to turn black, and the plant only began to recover after a miticide
Picture 4 – Broad mite damaged (left) and normal (right) blackberry flowers and leaves. Photo
credit Vincent et al. 2010.
Picture 5 – Floricane from a plant damaged in August from infestations of broad mite. Buds
formed during these broad mite infestations did not leaf-out in the following year.
Scouting is key to broad mite management. Any miticide that is applied before broad
mite is present is likely to have no positive effect and could potentially lead to
increased issues in the future. It’s likely that any pyrethroids or other insecticides
used could also promote broad mite issues, as they kill predatory mites. Growers should
scout for signs of injury in their plantings throughout the year, especially once
harvest begins on the floricane crop. Damage will generally pop-up in a small area
before it spreads throughout plantings. It presents first as tightening of the internode
and leaves will begin to roll or cup before it begins to look serious. Once any suspected
broad mite injury is observed, pull 10 unfurling leaflets (third-node from the top,
leaves should be just starting to lay flat) from surrounding primocanes. Ambered-colored
adult broad mites can be seen at about 30x-60x magnification, which is usually available
at your local extension office. Also be on the lookout for their distinctly polka-dotted
eggs, which indicate that it is time to spray (Picture 6).
Picture 6 – Broad mite egg on the underside of a blackberry leaflet as viewed through a dissecting
microscope. These eggs distinctly polka-dotted and a sign of a rapidly increasing
broad mite infestation.
Broad mite numbers often build very rapidly and work by Dr. Donn Johnson has indicated
that reaching between 1-5 mites per leaflet is the sweet spot for control (Johnson
and Garcia 2015). Once mites exceed an average of 10 per leaflet, damage is usually
widespread and populations can be difficult to effectively manage. Finding eggs in
samples along with adult mites is also a good indication that it is time to apply
a miticide for control. After applying any miticide for broad mite, continue scouting
to assure effectiveness and for the potential of new infestations. Farms in Arkansas
that have major broad mite issues often necessitate two applications a year, especially
in years when the first infestations begin early.
Currently there are many options to control broad mite, but only two that can safely
be used in the heat of the summer (above 80-90°F). Products such as Mpede (potassium
salts of fatty acids), Microthiol (sulfur), JMS Stylet Oil (paraffinic oil), or Neem
Oil all offered sufficient suppression of broad mite (Lefors et al 2017). These products
can be risky to use in the heat of the summer and can damage blackberry plants if
applied when it is too hot. It is important to note that these products were not always
found to be effective in efficacy trials (Johnson and Garcia 2015).
Effective miticides that are safe to use in the summer include Magister SC and Agrimek
SC + NIS (Picture 7). With these two products, growers can make 3 effective applications in a single year
for broad mite (2 Agri-Mek + NIS and 1 Magister). In most years only 1-2 applications
will be necessary, but we have seen instances where infestations were hard to knock
back for more than a few weeks at a time. These products both have a 7-day preharvest
interval which may complicate their use in primocane fruiting cultivars. A potential
product that we are investigating is Portal, which only has a 1-day PHI. This product
just added caneberries to its label and potentially can suppress broad mite. We plan
to put out some miticide trials this year and assess its effectiveness compared to
Picture 7 – Miticide Efficacy work by Dr. Donn Johnson (Johnson and Garcia 2015). In this trial
only Agri-Mek and Magister proved to be effective control options. Other studies have
shown oil-based products to be potential options for effective control (Lefors et
Broad mite shows up too late in Arkansas to affect the floricane crop, but this may
not be the case across the entire Southeast. Control efforts generally need to be
focused on limiting damage to this year’s primocanes, which could translate to yield
loss in primocane fruiting cultivars and lowered yield potential in next year’s floricane
production. Scout for leaf injury and confirm that it is broad mite damage by sending
in samples to your local extension service. If you are observing damage and there
is more than 1 broad mite per leaflet across a significant portion of a plant, Agri-Mek
+ NIS is a good first option. Save Magister for a second shot as a rotation tool if
necessary. You will need thorough coverage (60-100 GPA is preferable) to get acceptable
control as this pest is often feeding deep inside terminal leaf material.
Johnson & Garcia. (2015). Broad mite biology and management on blackberry. SRSFC Report.
LeFors, J. A., D. T. Johnson, and T. Woodruff. 2017. Acaricidal Control of Broad Mites
in Blackberry, 2016. Arthropod Management Tests, 2017: 1-2.
Vincent, C. I., M. García, D. T. Johnson, and C. R. Rom. 2010. Broad Mite on Primocane-fruiting
Blackberry in Organic Production in Arkansas. Hort. Tech. 20: 718-723.