Archive for the ‘Biological control’ Category

Long-term partnership to produce protein-based biocontrols

Biotalys and Olon have signed a long-term strategic partnership for the manufacturing of Biotalys’ biocontrol products. The partnership is driven by the common vision of transforming food protection with unique protein-based biocontrol solutions and secures the global supply of Biotalys’ newly developed biofungicide, Evoca, planned for market introduction in the United States in the second half of 2022 – pending regulatory approval.

Evoca, the first protein-based biocontrol in the Biotalys pipeline, aims to provide fruit and vegetable growers with a new rotation partner in integrated pest management (IPM) programs. It helps control diseases such as Botrytis and powdery mildew, thus reducing the dependency on chemical pesticides with corresponding residues in harvested produce while offering a distinctive new tool to manage pathogen resistance development.

Under the partnership, Olon will produce the active ingredient of Evoca at its world-class biotech manufacturing sites in Capua and Settimo Torinese (Italy), two centers of excellence in the microbial fermentation field meeting the highest quality standards. Relying on experience gained over more than 50 years, Olon’s expertise includes extensive know-how of microbial fermentation, one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable technologies capable of significantly reducing the overall environmental impact.

In Capua, Olon’s fermentation facility operates a range of bioreactors of up to 35m³, while the facility in Settimo Torinese envisages production in batches of up to 112m³ – far above the capacity reached until now for Biotalys’ products. This upscaling therefore signifies a major step forward in terms of production efficiency and scalability of protein-based biocontrols. Olon will both handle the fermentation process of the products developed by Biotalys in its laboratories in Ghent and purify them into the technical intermediate which will then be formulated by an external provider to create the end products.

“Biotalys’ protein-based biocontrols are a promising new class of products to help growers protect their crops in an environmentally sustainable way,” said Paolo Tubertini, CEO of Olon. “They perfectly match with our long-term plan that focuses on novel biotech solutions and, consequently, the expansion of our capacity to support innovative biotech companies to accelerate the development of new products in a more sustainable way. According to this strategy we offer one of the biggest platforms of microbial fermentation production globally. It means the application of sustainable biotechnology to industrialization.”

Patrice Sellès, CEO of Biotalys, stated: “We are very excited to partner with them for the manufacturing of our protein-based solutions, beginning with our first biofungicide Evoca. With its state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and processes, Olon will be able to provide us with the quantity of product we need for the planned market calibration, while ensuring it meets all regulatory, quality and safety specifications. Upon formulation, the end product will give growers a new tool to use in integrated pest management programs to fight devastating fungal diseases in many fruits and vegetables.”

Biotalys submitted Evoca for registration to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States in December 2020. Following the submission, Biotalys passed both the provided completeness check and the preliminary technical screening. The company expects to receive EPA approval in H2 2022. Biotalys also submitted for approval in California in April 2021, as this State performs its own in-depth review. In the European Union, Biotalys received confirmation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the College for approval of crop protection products and biocides (Ctgb) that the registration dossier submitted in March 2021 for the active substance of Evoca is admissible for review.For more information:

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Use of Trichogramma egg parasitoid cards proves effective in controlling stem borer


Telengana Today

Siddipet: Farmers in Ibrahimpur village of Narayanraopet mandal are getting good yields after they started using Trichogramma egg parasitoid cards to control stem borer pest in paddy fields instead of pesticides.- Advertisement –

Since the stem borer (Lepidoptera) has been invading paddy crops in Telangana, the farmers here regularly used pesticides to control the menace. The use of pesticides, however, not only increases crop investment but it also polluted the environment besides increasing the possibility of pesticides entering the food chain. In addition to this, stem borer developed resistance to these pesticides. To overcome the menace, a few farmers in Ibrahimpur village started using egg parasitoid cards of Trichogramma, which is a parasite of stem borer, under the guidance of Agriculture Extension Officer (AEO) T Nagarjuna.

Though a majority of farmers in Ibrahimpur still used pesticides during the Vanakalam crop, the few farmers who used egg parasitoid cards in their crop have got better results. Hyderabad News

Speaking to Telangana Today, Nagarjuna said the farmers did not believe him at first when he tried to educate them on the need of using egg parasitoid cards to control the stem borer. He then chose a few progressive farmers like Nagesh Reddy who came forward to use the same in his field. When these farmers got better results besides saving money on pesticides, the AEO said that many farmers were looking forward to adopting the same method next year.

Since Trichogramma is a parasite of stem borer eggs, Nagarjuna said they eat the eggs of stem borers that helps in contolling its spread.

Nagesh Reddy said the Trichogramma egg parasitoid cards were more effective than the pesticides they regularly use in paddy fields. He further said the environmentally friendly method is not only preventing the Stem Borer but also saving them money besides enhancing the yield.

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Honeydew contaminated with systemic insecticides threatens beneficial insects

Neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides can contaminate honeydew, which is an important food source for beneficial insects in the agroecosystems, according to an international team of researchers.

John Tooker, professor of entomology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, was part of the multidisciplinary team that conducted a review of the scientific literature, concluding that systemic insecticides in honeydew are a serious concern, particularly in large-acreage crops that commonly are treated with these products.

Honeydew is the excretion product of sap-sucking insects such as aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, and psyllids, Tooker explained.

“This rich carbohydrate source is a common food for many beneficial insects, including pollinators, such as bees and flies, and some natural enemies of pests, such as ants, wasps, and beetles,” he said. “Honeydew often is more abundant than nectar in agroecosystems.”

In their review, the researchers cited a 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by some of the co-authors, who found that honeydew represents a novel route of exposure to neonicotinoids, the most widely used group of systemic insecticides in the world. These insecticides often are applied in the form of seed coatings, and as a plant germinates and grows, the insecticide in its sap kills pest insects that feed on it.

As part of the 2019 study, the scientists conducted chemical analyses of honeydew excreted by insects feeding on sap from plants treated with neonicotinoids. They found clear evidence that this honeydew was contaminated and toxic to beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps and pollinating hoverflies, which died within a few days of consuming the contaminated honeydew.

The study was the subject of industry skepticism because it was conducted under laboratory conditions that may not exist in the field. Subsequently, members of the research team conducted a two-year field study — published recently in Environmental Pollution — which found that neonicotinoids from soybean plants grown from neonicotinoid-coated seeds reached honeydew excreted by soybean aphid 30-40 days after the seeds were sown.

“Continued work by our consortium, and studies published by other researchers, have revealed that the phenomenon is widespread, occurring in several species of plants and honeydew producers and with several systemic insecticides with various modes of action and modes of application,” said co-author Miguel Calvo-Agudo, of the Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias in Valencia, Spain. “As a result, many beneficial insect species are at risk of being exposed to neonicotinoids via contaminated honeydew.”

Resistant insect species 
The research team’s summary, published recently in Biological Reviews, analyzed relevant information from the fields of plant and insect physiology, toxicology, and ecology to identify the systemic insecticides that are more likely to reach honeydew and those insect species that are more likely to excrete contaminated honeydew.

For example, the authors raise serious concerns about invasive sap-sucking insect species that are resistant or tolerant to systemic insecticides and infest large-acreage crops — such as corn, wheat, rice and barley — that are commonly treated with systemic insecticides. These crops represent more than 50% of the worldwide harvest area, and honeydew is the main carbohydrate source in these crops for beneficial insects.

This review study can raise awareness among integrated pest management programs and environmental protection agencies that regulate the use of systemic insecticides, the researchers noted. Among their conclusions is a recommendation that agencies restrict the use of highly water-soluble systemic insecticides that are persistent in the environment and those that have a broad-spectrum activity to avoid nontarget impacts on beneficial insects through honeydew and other avenues of exposure.For more information:
PennState University

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A beetle chemical defense gland offers clues about how complex organs evolve

Peer-Reviewed Publication

CELL PRESSPrintEmail App

Rove beetles are among the chemists of the insect world, concocting noxious compounds within their bodies that are weaponized to ward off predators, enabling the beetles to survive in leaf litter and soil in ecosystems across the planet. On December 9 in the journal Cell, investigators studying a species of rove beetle report how two distinct cell types have come together to form a specialized gland for making and secreting these defensive cocktails. The work has implications for mapping out the evolution of more sophisticated organs found across the animal kingdom, including in humans.

“These beetles are fantastic models for understanding how new kinds of ecological relationships emerge during evolution through changes at the molecular, cellular, and behavioral levels,” says senior author Joseph Parker (@Pselaphinae) of the California Institute of Technology. “As part of this question, we’re very interested in how rove beetles have pieced together these glandular structures in their abdomens, which are made of different cell types that work together. These structures are the embodiment of a major conundrum: how complex organs evolve that are often composed of many different cell types that appear to seamlessly cooperate with each other. How this cooperativity emerges during evolution is challenging to explain.”

Parker’s lab focuses on rove beetles in part because of their ability to carve out niches for themselves in many different ecosystems, from in the dirt to inside ant colonies. One way they’ve been able to survive in the presence of other insects, such as ants, is through glands in their abdomen that release a defensive chemical compound that triggers pain receptors. The beetles have a supremely flexible body and can smear these chemical cocktails directly onto predators to defend themselves.

The species of rove beetle that was the focus of this research, Dalotia coriaria, has what’s called a tergal gland in its abdomen that releases a cocktail made of two compound types: benzoquinones, which are highly toxic but solids on their own, and solvents, a fatty acid-derived blend of an alkane and three esters. The latter compounds by themselves are benign, but they weaponize the benzoquinones by dissolving them.

Parker’s group investigated the tergal gland and found two cell types that were engaged in a biosynthetic division of labor. “One cell type makes the benzoquinones and the other makes the solvents,” Parker says. “Both are needed to create a functional secretion that confers adaptive value.”

In the study, the investigators used single-cell transcriptomics of the beetles’ abdominal segments to uncover novel enzyme pathways that enable the creation of these substances in each cell type. They then used these findings to dig deeper, exploring how each cell type’s pathway was constructed from components that functioned in other more ancient cell types elsewhere in the beetle. “We were able to discover the biosynthetic pathways in each cell type and could then ask how these pathways were stitched together during evolution,” Parker notes.

Remarkably, one of the cell types—the solvent cells that make the alkane and esters—was found to be a hybrid of cells comprising the beetle’s exoskeleton and two ancient metabolic cell types that make and store lipids and produce pheromones. “The beetle has recruited a major gene expression program from these ancient metabolic cell types and installed it into a patch of cuticle, creating a gland,” Parker says.

Further experiments—including placing the beetles into battle arenas with ants—revealed that when either the solvent or benzoquinone pathway was knocked down, the beetles lost their defensive capabilities. This suggested that under natural selection, both cell types are needed to confer the beetles’ chemical defense system. The investigators also found that the compound made by the tergal gland has antimicrobial properties, further raising the adaptive value of the gland.

The authors think the gland evolved via coevolution between the two cell types. “The solvent cells created a niche for a second cell type to produce the solid benzoquinones, which could dissolve in the alkane and esters. A highly toxic secretion emerged that massively raised the gland’s adaptive value, locking the two cell types into a unit where they cooperate. In essence, a new organ emerged,” Parker says.

“Across the animal tree of life, you see complex multicellular organs that are composed of many different cell types functioning collectively,” Parker concludes. “Think of something like the mammalian eye, which has about 70 different cell types all functioning together to enable our visual system. The scenario we find playing out in the tergal gland—an organ made of only two cell types—you can imagine could go through further rounds as cell types create niches for new ones to be added, eventually generating really elaborate multicellular complexity.”


This work was supported by a Rita Allen Foundation Scholars Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, a Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation grant, a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship Award, and a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

Cell, Brückner et al. “Evolutionary assembly of cooperating cell types in an animal chemical defense system” https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)01329-5 

Cell (@CellCellPress), the flagship journal of Cell Press, is a bimonthly journal that publishes findings of unusual significance in any area of experimental biology, including but not limited to cell biology, molecular biology, neuroscience, immunology, virology and microbiology, cancer, human genetics, systems biology, signaling, and disease mechanisms and therapeutics. Visit: http://www.cell.com/cell. To receive Cell Press media alerts, contact press@cell.com.





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Benefits of cacao farms for birds and bats


International research team led by Göttingen University finds cacao agroforestry around tropical dry forests improves biodiversityPeer-Reviewed Publication


Carolina Ocampo Ariza

Cacao farms not only provide us with the pleasure of chocolate, but also offer potential advantages for biodiversity-friendly agriculture. The benefits to biodiversity have been widely studied in tropical rainforests, but were so far unknown in tropical dry forests. An international team of researchers led by the University of Göttingen has now reported for the first time how seasonal effects drive the presence of birds and bats – the most important consumers of insect pests – in cacao agroforests in Peru. The results were published in Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment.

Tropical dry forests are globally threatened by deforestation and agriculture, and in northwestern Peru cacao is often grown near dry forest habitats. The researchers studied cacao agroforestry systems, i.e. growing cacao under shade trees, for more than one year and found that birds and bats – and mostly those that eat insects – benefit from them. “We found that tropical dry forests have unique bird and bat species, but cacao agroforestry is a good option for agricultural practices that benefit biodiversity,” reports first author Carolina Ocampo-Ariza from the Agroecology group at the University of Göttingen. She adds, “These results are valuable for designing and managing agricultural landscapes in megadiverse countries as Peru.”

The research team found that bats were always present in larger groups in cacao farms than in nearby forests, whereas this was the case for birds only in the dry season. “Cacao farms seem to serve as an oasis for birds, providing food and refuge when they are scarce in the forest,” states co-author Professor Teja Tscharntke, from the Agroecology group at the University of Göttingen. “This has important consequences for ecosystem services in agroforestry systems, as birds and bats play an important role controlling insect pests that attack cacao,” adds co-author Dr Bea Maas from the University of Vienna.

Original publicationCarolina Ocampo-Ariza et al. Trait-dependent responses of birds and bats to season and dry forest distance in tropical agroforestry. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 2022. Vol 325. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2021.107751

Full text available until 8 January 2022, here: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1e6R5cA-IgJe8

Full text available in Spanish on request. Please contact Carolina Ocampo-Ariza below.


Carolina Ocampo-Ariza

University of Göttingen

Faculty for Agricltural Sciences – Agroecology

Grisebachstraße 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany

Email: carolinamaria.ocampoariza@uni-goettingen.de


Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment




Observational study


Not applicable


Trait-dependent responses of birds and bats to season and dry forest distance in tropical agroforestry



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Tanzania: Hope As Local Company Pioneers Biological Control Agents

FacebookTwitterWhatsAppFlipboardLinkedInRedditEmailShare14 DECEMBER 2021Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)By Dailynews Reporter

A gleam of hope seems to have finally dawned on the horticulture industry, as a Tanzania’s company has pioneered production and export of biological control agents, thus offering a ray of hope to growers and consumers.

Tanzania’s horticulture industry champion, TAHA Group CEO, Dr Jacqueline Mkindi was overwhelmed with a joy, saying their painstaking efforts to see Tanzania produce and take a share in the global organic food value chain worth369 billion US dollars annually, have paid off.

“We are very proud of our member, the multi-flower Ltd for being a leading company to manufacture the biocontrol agents for local consumption and exports market.

This will enable Tanzania to get a slice in the global organic food market value of 369 billion US dollars” Dr Mkindi explained.

The company behind the breakthrough is none other than the Multiflower Limited based in Arusha, with a capacity of producing 1200 liters of biocontrol agents per day or 6000 liters per week.

The Managing Director of Multiflower Ltd, Mr Tjerk Scheltema said the biocontrol agents are only supplied to local flower farms and the surplus was exported to Holland, flying the Tanzania’s profile high in terms of innovation.

The biological control agents include Predator mites such as, Phytoseiulus persimillis, Amblyseius swirkii, Amblyseius montdorensis, Neoseilus californicus and Stratiolaelaps scimitus.

The biological control application in Agriculture proves to be beneficial to the environment and human health as it does not cause toxicity to the plants, soil and water, multiply easily in the soil and leave no residual problem.Close

The biocontrol agents not only control the disease, but also enhance the root and plant growth by way of encouraging the beneficial soil microflora and increasing the crop yield.

“I’m very greatiful to enable Tanzania for the first time to export biological control agents to international markets” Mr Scheltema explained.

He, however, said that the success story wouldn’t be possible without the painstaking efforts by TAHA and the Ministry of Agriculture to streamline the policies, regulations and procedures to facilitate the production, registration and export of these natural enemies of pests that cause economic losses in horticulture industry.

Through the Technical Expertise from the Biological Control Agents Sub-committee (BCAS), Plant Health Services and Parliamentary Committee Members in charge of Agriculture, Livestock and Water pushed for a need to revise the Plant Health Regulation, 1998 and come up with an up-to-date regulation that incorporates modern technologies.

These engagements facilitated the establishment of the system that would enhance ease production, registration and exportation of biological control agents under the Plant Protection Act, 2020 and Guidelines for the export, shipment, import and release of biological control agents and other beneficial organisms – IPPC

Read the original article on Daily News.

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Two bioprotection companies start long-term partnership

Biotalys and Biobest today announced a long-term strategic partnership. The partnership will grant Biobest access to five protein-based biocontrol solutions developed by Biotalys on its Agrobody Foundry technology platform for Biobest’s global offer in covered crops and berries. In addition, the two companies enter into an exclusive agreement for the distribution of Biotalys’ biofungicide Evoca in the United States for all crops and applications, starting in 2022 – pending regulatory approval.

“Biobest’s vision is to deliver an innovative and complete range of biological solutions to growers in all major geographical markets,” said Jean-Marc Vandoorne, CEO of Biobest. “Biotalys offers a unique new technology for the development of biodegradable, protein-based biocontrol products which are perfectly fit for the diversification of our offer to covered crop and berry growers and for the challenges these growers face in producing healthy and safe food. We look forward to initiating the offer to growers by adding Biotalys’ biofungicide Evoca to our portfolio in the United States upon availability of the product later next year.”

Patrice Sellès, CEO of Biotalys, stated: “We are delighted to have chosen Biobest as our long-term commercial partner for our protein-based biocontrols programs in the covered crops and berry market segments. With its presence on all continents, supporting growers with a wide range of biocontrol solutions, and its innovative approach with novel techniques such as robotics, sensors and other digital supporting tools, Biobest is extremely well positioned to secure the best uptake of our unique technology and candidate products in these selected markets. At the same time, the distribution by Biobest of our very first biocontrol product Evoca in the U.S. market is a key milestone for our company and will pave the way for the commercialization of our future products.”

Long-term collaboration agreement
Under the terms of the partnership, Biotalys will offer Biobest a right of first negotiation to come to an exclusive distribution agreement for five protein-based biocontrol programs for use in the global covered crop and berry market during the next 10 years. The product candidates can relate to either the existing or future pipeline.

Each time a product candidate is promoted by Biotalys to the development stage on Biotalys’ Agrobody Foundry technology platform, Biobest will have the rights to access the technology with the aim of adding the end-product to its portfolio of solutions in covered crops and berries. For each of the product candidates being promoted to the development stage, the companies will negotiate a tailored global distribution agreement and associated fees (for the technology and product) taking into account the spectrum, potency and crop applicability of the bio-fungicide, bio-insecticide or bio-bactericide solution involved.

The long-term partnership between Biobest and Biotalys provides that Biotalys will supply the end-products to Biobest for commercialization to growers globally. At a time when the number of crop protection solutions is facing significant challenges from a regulatory and consumer point of view, these growers are in need of more sustainable and safer food protection alternatives to produce healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables. The parties believe that this agreement could generate annual sales in the covered crop and berry space of more than EUR 100 million for both partners combined resulting from the five biocontrol programs.

Next to Evoca, Biotalys’ pipeline at present consists of various bio-fungicide, bio-insecticide and bio-bactericide programs in different research or exploratory stages.

Exclusive distribution agreement for Evoca in the US
Biobest and Biotalys have also signed a distribution agreement under which Biobest will exclusively distribute Evoca in the United States for all crops and applications, to calibrate the market as of late 2022, subject to regulatory approval. Evoca is Biotalys’ first biofungicide aimed at helping growers to protect crops such as strawberries, grapes and other high-value fruits and vegetables against Botrytis and Powdery Mildew in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs.

Biotalys submitted Evoca for EPA registration in the United States in December 2020. Following the submission, Biotalys passed both the provided completeness check and the preliminary technical screening. Biotalys expects to receive EPA approval in H2 2022. In April 2021, Biotalys also submitted for approval in California, as this State performs its own in-depth review.

For more information:
www.biotalys.com Biobestinfo@biobestgroup.comwww.biobestgroup.com

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Cross-Border Technology Transfer: Biological Control of the Fall Armyworm in Asia and Africa

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Jul 15, 2019

Fall Armyworm
The fall armyworm’s entry into Africa in 2016, and its more recent entry into Asia, has farmers unnerved with its resilience to most control methods.

This post was written by Sara Hendery.

The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is becoming a household name around the world, but not for good reasons – the pest, native to the tropical and subtropical Americas, devours over 300 plant species, including maize, which feeds millions of people every day. In Africa alone, the fall armyworm has already caused nearly $13.3 billion in crop losses in just three years. Resilient to most pesticides and harsh climates, the pest has shown no signs of yielding since its arrival in Nigeria in 2016.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management (IPM Innovation Lab) projects that a chemical-free solution is key to long-term management of the fall armyworm. In Niger in July, the team will help support a training focused on biological control of the invasive pest hosted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), University of Maradi in Niger, and the National Institute for Research on Food and Nutrition (INRAN). The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals, and the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Sorghum and Millet Compact are also supporters of the training.

The IPM Innovation Lab will be sending participants from Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, and Bangladesh to attend the training in Niger in an effort to catalyze cross-continental knowledge and information exchange. Also in attendance will be participants from Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun, Sudan and Niger.

“Maize is a staple crop in both Africa and Asia,” said Muni Muniappan, Director of the IPM Innovation Lab. “Biological control offers an economically and environmentally friendly approach to combatting the fall armyworm and the technology is easily transferrable to more than one country and continent. It’s important that in already fragile economic situations, we introduce options that are truly viable.”

In 2018, in collaboration with ICRISAT and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the IPM Innovation Lab helped find two natural enemies of the fall armyworm, Telenomus and Trichogramma, which attack the eggs of the pest. Telenomus and Trichogramma populations are low early in the season, hence, mass production and timely release of the natural enemies will suppress the pest throughout the cropping season.

The training will cover status and identification of the fall armyworm, mass production of both Telenomus and Trichogramma, best laboratory practices, scouting for egg and larval natural enemies in the field, and field release. Also covered will be case studies of successful biological control, especially the case of using natural enemies against the pearl millet head miner in the Sahel and the case of using classical biological control against the papaya mealybug.  

Due to the fall armyworm’s unique ability to burrow inside the whorl of plants, conventional pesticides, which are already costly, are not practical options. The pest moves quickly – two or three generations of the pest can feed off a single crop during a growing season before moving on, and a female can lay 1,000 eggs during her lifetime. Smallholder farmers, many of whom live and work on less than an acre of land, are especially vulnerable to the pest’s attack.

“By the end of the training we expect participants to master how to scout for fall armyworm parasitoids and how to mass rear and release Telenomus and Trichogramma,” said Malick Ba, principal scientist at ICRISAT. “They should be able to establish cultures of natural enemies back home for use in their own biological control programs.”  

The same natural enemies of the fall armyworm occur in both Asia and Africa. A major component of the Niger training will be preparing and guiding participants on how to garner support for scaling up biological control programs in their respective countries.

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Kenyan Farmers Find Hope in Fighting Fall Armyworm

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Jun 08, 2021

a group of people stand in a field, their faces covered with masks. They are listening to a man who is giving them instruction in biocontrol.
Biocontrol instruction in Kenya.

This post is written by Sara Hendery, communications coordinator for the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab.

In Kenya, farmers have observed a loss of at least half of their maize yields due to the fall armyworm. In Africa alone, the pest has caused an estimated $10 billion in damage. While the pest prefers maize, it attacks hundreds of plant species, significantly impacting food security across the region and beyond.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM IL) and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) initiated biocontrol, or the release of natural enemies, to combat fall armyworm in East Africa. Specifically in Kenya’s Embu and Kirinyaga counties, the teams released the parasitic wasp Telenomus remus in farmer demonstration plots. T. remus naturally occurs in Kenya, and after mass production in the lab, can be released to attack the eggs of fall armyworm with parasitism ranging from 78-100%.

Kenyan farmers observed improved farming conditions after release of the natural enemies, including significantly increased maize yields and reduced labor time in the field.

“After the release of the parasitoids, there was drastic reduction of fall armyworm infestation,” remarked one of the farmers. “They reduced leaf damage and [we] did not observe any dead heart in the field where parasitoids were released. It saved labor and time to do other things in the farm because we had stopped spraying [pesticides].”

After the initial release of T. remus, maize yields in the Kenyan farmers’ fields generally increased from two bags to five bags per quarter acre. Farmers noted that this increase was significant given the fall armyworm’s dramatic impact over the last several years, including decreased quality and quantity of maize, increased production costs and increased fodder expenses for livestock (due to limited dependence on maize).

Before implementing biocontrol, Kenyan farmers remarked that they were lucky if they could harvest any maize at all, but even if they could, the grains didn’t always acquire good prices at the market.  

“Due to fall armyworm infestation, we started experiencing food insecurity and struggling to pay school fees for our children, which is very unusual for the area,” said one of the farmers, detailing the impact of the pest. “We started spending more money in trying to control the insect pest using chemicals and in return got very little, if any yield.”

Since the pest is most destructive in its larval stage, reducing populations as much as possible at the egg stage is vital. While many solutions to combat the pest exist — including genetically modified crops, chemical pesticides and mechanical control — fall armyworm adapts to new conditions rapidly and thrives in harsh conditions. Having established itself in most of Africa, as well as many areas of Asia, the fall armyworm has also been reported in Australia and other parts of Oceania. More than 70 countries have been impacted by its spread.  

In addition to Kenya, ICIPE and IPM IL have trained researchers on biocontrol of fall armyworm in Ethiopia, Tanzania and a range of other countries in Africa and Asia, with hopes of initiating biocontrol “satellite” sites throughout both continents.  

“Farmer demand to control fall armyworm is a high priority,” said Tadele Tefera, country head of ICIPE in Ethiopia. “The release of biocontrol agents initiated by IPM IL and ICIPE should and can be fast-tracked and expanded to reach several maize-growing communities; any delay could lead to substantial yield loss that could affect farmer livelihoods.”

“Augmentative biological control,” Tefera added, “where natural enemies are periodically introduced to control the fall armyworm, is an effective, environmentally-friendly approach. After witnessing the effectiveness of natural enemies on their own farms, farmers are motivated to use this form of biological control to reduce environmental impacts of pesticides.”

For more information on biocontrol of fall armyworm, contact Sara Hendery at saraeh91@vt.edu. 

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2020 Integrated Pest Management Research, Data and Findings: A Look Back

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Feb 09, 2021

Photograph of fall armyworm
Fall Armyworm.

2020 was a year like no other — researchers in search of answers to some of the world’s most pressing questions were forced to think outside the box when trials and experiments were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, communities are facing food insecurity challenges more intensely than ever before, emphasizing the ongoing value of research that looks at the sustainable production of crops. Despite a challenging year, Virginia Tech’s Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM IL) and its partners aim to highlight some of the 2020 research outputs that will continue to help foster improved livelihoods around the world.

Fall armyworm

Tuta absoluta

Crop protection

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“Pests can change their behavior, but they can’t avoid being eaten”

Greenhouse vegetable and flower growers are always looking for new tools to fight the pests that go after their crops.

Three promising native Canadian predators are now under evaluation at Vineland as part of a project led by Rose Buitenhuis, PhD, Program Leader, Biological Crop Protection. She has been heading the search for new ways to help growers deal with common greenhouse plant pests. Depending on the pest, growers can experience crop losses of 5to 20, and if the pest transmits a plant virus, losses can go as high as 100%.

“Our overall goal is to find new native-to-Canada predators that are generalists and will be a good addition to an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program in horticulture,” says Buitenhuis. She is currently testing three nabid predator species, collected in the Niagara region, Ontario to determine which one has the greatest potential to control pests in Canadian crops. Nabids are common natural enemies of greenhouse crop pests like aphids, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies.

Ready-to-go biocontrol packages
Applied Bionomics of British Columbia is Vineland’s principal collaborator in the project. The goal, according to Buitenhuis, is to have a ready-to-go biocontrol package in place by March 2023. Because the work involves native Canadian predators, there is no need for additional regulatory approvals, and, if successful, the impact for growers will be immediate.

This work is part of a larger biocontrol project underway at Vineland. Vineland and Applied Bio-nomics have also partnered to bring to market a predatory mite first discovered in the St. Catharines, Ontario area by a Vineland researcher. This predatory mite was also tested in the first-ever trial on cannabis plants last year in partnership with Niagara College’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre.

As part of research in laboratory and greenhouse settings, the three nabid species are being evaluated for their predation rate, which common greenhouse pests they feed on, how well they survive on supplemental food in the greenhouse, and how well they perform in an IPM system with multiple pests.

“We don’t know yet which one will be the best candidate, but the goal is to have one that will meet all of those criteria,” she says. “For now, they seem pretty similar, so it is difficult to pick.” Specialized biocontrol agents are available for most common greenhouse crop pests. A versatile generalist predator would be a good addition to an IPM system as it would target whichever pest population was most prevalent.

More robust pest control
According to Buitenhuis, this makes pest control more robust and reliable for growers. “More specialist biocontrol agents disappear when there is no pest to feed on, whereas this one will stay around and feed on other pests — that’s why it must play well with others,” she adds. “In biocontrol, you always need multiple beneficial insects working together.”

Vineland is currently the only team comparing all three nabid species together, however, one is being investigated in Quebec as a possible control against tarnished plant bugs in outdoor strawberry production. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research center in Harrow is also looking at that same species as a potential candidate against future invasive species that may arrive.

“This is a Canadian solution to address problems faced by Canadian growers,” says Buitenhuis, “and we won’t face resistance issues like with pesticides where pests adapt to specific modes of action. Pests can change their behavior, but they can’t avoid being eaten.”

This article was taken from the Vineland Innovation Report. Read the complete report here.

For more information:
Vineland Research

Publication date: Wed 1 Dec 2021

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