Purpose: The aim of this experiment is not to eradicate potato bugs, but rather, to help the potato plants to develop” healthy” leaves so the potato bugs cannot feed on them. “Healthy” is very measure-able by using a refractometer and measuring the BRIX of the plant. BRIX is the measurement of the amount of sugars and/or dissolved solids in a liquid (plant juice). The method involves simply squeezing a drop or two of plant juice from the leaf onto the screen of the refractometer and reading the result.
Theory: The premise is insects do not have pancreases, so cannot process sugars. The more sugars a plant can hold, the more un-appealing it is to insects. Insects will not touch a plant with BRIX of 12% or higher.
Background: By early July, the adult potato bugs which over-winter in the ground emerged and commenced laying eggs on the potato plants. By 09 July 2022, the potato bug larvae were beginning to hatch, and the damage on the plants were evident. The BRIX of the plants on that day was 4% (not high enough to deter potato bugs). There are 4 rows of potatoes in this patch, and 3 of the rows were treated with the remaining row serving as a control for experiment comparison. All potato plants were weeded and hilled as needed.
Treatments: To combat the potato bug infestation, two procedures were followed on a daily bases:
Each plant was inspected for eggs, larvae, and adult potato bugs which were removed.
A mixture of molasses, nutrients, and water was sprayed on potato plants. Mixture directions are: mix approximately 2 tablespoons of molasses PLUS approximately 1 teaspoon of nutrients in a liter of water. Each plant was sprayed till leaves were wet (almost dripping).
Results: On 18 July 2022, BRIX of the treated potato plants varied from 8-10%. Potato bug damage was considerably more evident on the control row which received no treatment. Dead potato bug larvae were noticed on the treated plants.
Conclusion: Continual treatment (spraying of molasses and nutrients) onto potato plants aids the plants into becoming very “healthy” which definitely deters potato bugs.