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Review: Biopesticides conference Swansea University

close up of green field

9 Oct 2015

SCI Agrisciences Group supported Biopesticides - Innovative technologies and strategies for pest control, held at Swansea University from 7 to 9 September 2015. Here we share an overview of the event.

The conference attracted more than 180 delegates from over 20 countries. The intense programme over three days covered a wide variety of topics embracing crop protection as well as ectoparasite control. Over 50 presentations covered evolving innovations, formulation developments and different strategies aiming to enhance biopesticide efficacy and competitiveness. There was also an exhibition and organised networking session which involved some 40 commercial and other organisations.

Prof Tariq Butt, who had convened the conference, in welcoming delegates said that he hoped that the conference would signal the opportunity for new and improved strategies in the use of biopesticides as well as ways of overcoming barriers.

Dr Willem Ravensberg, president of the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association (IBMA) presented a wide ranging and informative overview that looked at the current status of the biopesticide market and the future of crop protection through to 2030.

Dr Ravensberg quoted from Durham Trimmer’s Biopesticde Overview 2015, which estimates the global market value for biopesticides at around $1.9 billion at user level of which $542 million is in Europe, with an annual global growth rate of around 15-20%.  At the same time some 6-7% growth is expected for chemical pesticides so that the global crop protection market will exceed $80 billion in 2019. Similar growth rates are expected for biostimulants, biofertilisers, agricultural inoculants and seed treatments.

A specific example of how the use of biopesticides had rescued crop failures was presented by Prof Steve Arthurs, University of Florida. Since 2012 azinphos methyl for the control of codling moth in apples has been withdrawn and many growers were considering giving up apple production.  Prof Arthurs and his team explored the potential of the codling moth specific granulvirus CYD-X, marketed in the US by Certis. The opportunity for controlling the codling moth larva is very limited possibly just a matter of hours but provided larva ingest the virus it soon spreads from larva to larva. A three year trial programme which included storage tests, proved very successful with fruit damage down to less than 1%. Growers reported that the biopesticide had effectively saved their business.

Dr Owen Jones, who runs a consultancy service from Cardiff, described how advances in the use of pheromones and other semiochemicals are proving beneficial. The main uses for pheromones are for detection and monitoring of insect pests and for mating disruption. The global market for semiochemical traps and lures is estimated at over $55 million at manufacturer level.

Dr Jones referred to how the use of GPS mapping and visual imaging can help to identify areas of insect infestations allowing more efficient placement of traps. He also explained how, by using traps which release the pheromones in a ‘puff’, it is possible to substantially reduce the number of traps needed per hectare.

Dr Claudio Altomare, Institute of Sciences of Food Production, Bari, Italy presented a paper on the wider potential of the biological fungicides based on Trichoderma spp. Dr Altomare showed that there is still more scope for exploiting different species and different strains. He argues that effective control of insect pests requires the application of ‘the right strain at the right time, in the right place and using the right method of delivery’.  Dr Altomare identified four new species of Trichoderma with crop protection potential. One shows promise for controlling aphids and another shows activity against the root knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita on tomatoes.

A number of papers covered the control of wireworm and western corn rootworm in Europe. Researchers from Georg-August-University Goettingen in Germany are particularly active in this area.  Prof Stefan Vidal described the ‘attract and kill’ concept.  Yeast trapped in an alginate base and formulated in the form of capsules or seed treatments creates the ‘attraction’ for the soil pests due to the slow release of CO2. Larva associate the CO2 with plants and are attracted to the roots within one or two days. Co-formulation with an isolate from an entomopathogenic fungus, such as species of Metarhizium provides the ‘kill’.

Trials carried out on wireworms in organically grown potatoes showed promise in terms of reduced tuber damage provided the treatments were applied early. With late season application mortality rates were insufficient to reduce damage.

Prof Anant Patel, University of applied sciences, Bielefeld, Germany outlined work being carried out to perfect the most appropriate formulation of ‘attract and kill’ and other biopesticides. He explained that release rates and storage life of live organisms is fundamental to the biological performance and economic viability.  There is therefore a need to adopt a multidiscipline approach involving physical and engineering sciences.

A slightly different approach to crop protection was presented by John Edmonds, Eden Research plc, the AIM listed UK based company. The products developed by Eden are not biological in activity but are plant derived terpenes which are encapsulated. The patented micro-encapsulation technology, GO-E, ensures that the activity of the volatile terpenes is prolonged.

The first product, 3AEY, was granted EU registration in May 2015 for the control of botrytis in vine crops. A development and marketing agreement has also been reached with Sipcam in Italy, part of Sumiagri, for the evaluation of two new Eden products for the control of powdery mildew on ornamentals and fruit crops.

Included in the papers on ectoparasite control was an interesting presentation by Dr Diana Leemon, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland. She explained that Australia was behind other countries in turning to non-chemical control systems. Trials for the control of cattle ticks using a spray emulsion based on the biofungicide Metarhizium had proved successful in small scale trials but needs much more development to overcome practical problems in scaling up.

A further session at the conference covered funding opportunities available for biopesticide developments with presentations from EU and UK agencies.

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