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Insect-proof screens constitute efficient physical means of protecting horticultural crops against insect pests and their use has become widespread. However, they may have a negative impact on plant growth and fruit quality by modifying climatic parameters of greenhouses. In case of tomato crops, they are used mainly against white flies and the tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta (Meyrick). In Tunisia, tomato plastic tunnels are often netted following two modalities: i) complete netting of the greenhouse under the plastic screen (total netting); or ii) netting only doors and lateral aeration windows (partial netting). Weekly monitoring of T. absoluta in two tomato greenhouses with different netting setups using pheromone traps and sampling of leaves and fruits showed no differences in the levels of infestation by the pest with a maximum average values of 6.66 eggs/leaf, 4.16 larvae/leaf and 4.16 mines/leaf. The maximum infestation rate of leaves was 86.66% and that of fruits was 10.83%. No effects of the netting setup used on plant growth parameters were detected. However, the study of fruit quality parameters revealed significant decrease in sugar contents in tomato fruits when using total netting setup (4.26°Brix versus 3.68°Brix). Recommendations regarding the combined use of pheromones traps and insect-proof nets are given and possibilities to enhance the efficiency of nets as physical barrier against T. absoluta are explored.
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