Erfan Vafaie

Erfan VafaieErfan Vafaie is a PhD student under Dr. Kevin Heinz. My research interests include biological control, integrated pest management, and applied horticultural entomology. My current research project is biological control of whiteflies on greenhouse color poinsettias using multiple natural enemies. Bemisia tabaci, one of the more common whiteflies in Texas greenhouses, is a generalist insect pest that can reduce growth, yield, aesthetics, and marketability of several different commodities, such as tomato, cotton, garden vegetables, and poinsettia. Bemisia tabaci populations are typically achieved through regular use of pesticides. Increasing occurrence of pesticide resistance, tighter pesticide applicator regulations, and consumer demand for decreased pesticide use increase the need for alternative strategy for pest management. In my research, I investigate the efficacy of using predatory/parasitic insects to manage the pest population. More specifically, my research asks: is the use of two natural enemies in combination, Amblyseius swirskii (predatory mite) and Eretmocerus eremicus (parasitic wasp), more effective at managing the whitefly populations than either natural enemy alone? My goal is to create a data-driven pest management solution for growers that is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, safe for workers/consumers, and effective at suppressing pest populations to meet or exceed market standards.

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