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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Developing better biopesticides

Developing better biopesticides

Developing better biopesticides

Arthropod pests can cause major problems and huge economic losses to the food we grow. These pests can reduce crop yields and quality throughout the food production chain by damaging seeds that affect germination, crop growth and post-harvest storage. This is where we can help. Our biopesticides team in the UK works throughout the world to minimize the threats to our crops and harvests. They do this by surveying for new isolates and improving isolate mass production, quality control and formulation of entomopathogenic fungi.

What are biopesticides?

Biopesticides are derived from natural organisms such as certain fungi, plants and bacteria. Entomopathogenic (insect killing) fungi are naturally occurring pathogens of insects which can be developed into a biopesticide product. These infectious agents are environmentally safe, non-toxic to users and consumers and can be very specific; only affecting the target pest and closely related organisms. We focus on two or three genera that have long histories of safety and, when produced, formulated and used properly, can achieve effective and economic pest control.
Our expert scientists take a fungal isolate and aim to maximize its performance as a commercial biopesticide.

Developing a biopesticide – how it works

It all starts with an isolate – selecting the right isolate is a fundamental step in developing a biopesticide. It needs to be effective against the target insect without harming populations of non-target organisms, as well as being robust during mass production, formulation, storage and application.

What we can offer…

• a large reserve of isolates – we have hundreds of isolates (including over 300 entomopathogenic fungi) from a variety of insects and climatic zones

• strong links to key stakeholders – we work closely with governments, research organizations and the commercial sector

• identification and preservation – working with the UK’s Culture Collection we provide expertise to identify and preserve biopesticide isolates for the long-term

• a proven track record – we’ve worked around the world on a wide range of arthropod pests, our previous work has included: developing a biopesticide to control UK storage pests; conserving and using entomopathogenic fungi in Chile; controlling locusts in Africa (LUBILOSA); controlling sugarcane and palm pests.

Bridging the gap between small-scale laboratory bioassays and field trial applications requires an efficient fungal mass production process.

What we can offer…

• we have over 25 years’ experience in mass production technologies for fungal entomopathogens in addition to developing the MycoHarvester® for pure spore extraction

• we can produce medium sized batches of entomopathogenic fungi to order, for commercial and research organizations that lack the necessary equipment to mass produce high quality inoculum

• our staff regularly undertake consultancies for commercial companies who want to improve their mass production methodologies to increase yields and improve quality assurance

• we can improve the efficacy of isolates during the mass production process

Long shelf life of a product ensures good economies of scale during production. It can be affected by several factors including mass production methodology, temperature, moisture content of spores, formulation and packaging.

What we can offer…

• research to improve shelf life by adapting mass production techniques

• testing how formulation affects isolate longevity

• improvements in longevity of spores through appropriate storage and packaging techniques

Good quality control procedures are essential for the end product; demonstrating that a consistent and reliable product has been produced.

What we can offer…

• consultancies to commercial mass production companies to develop quality control and quality assurance protocols

• endorsement of the quality of fungal products

The correct formulation may improve shelf life, field efficacy and persistence and improve uptake by the target organism. Incorrect formulations may be toxic to the fungus, block application equipment and have poor persistence in the field. So, it’s important to understand your isolate and to conduct testing throughout development.

Having worked in association with commercial companies for 25 years, we’ve aided formulation and the development of many isolates, application technologies and assessed application environments and have seen marked improvement in assay and field results due to our input.

Specifically, we can offer…

• oil formulation development

• water-based formulation development such as emulsions

• dry formulations

Developing biopesticides to remove the need for cold storage

Farmers face issues with insect pests that damage their crops. In Africa, cold storage facilities necessary for some biopesticides aren't always available. As experts in this and crop management, we are working with Asymptote Ltd, a UK technology company, to develop an appropriate product for rural conditions in Africa, meaning African farmers... >>

Improving the rational use of pesticides for locusts in China

Agriculture is very important to China and chemical pesticides are often used to control their associated pests. Biopesticides, which have a low impact on surrounding plants and the environment can be used instead and China wants to switch over to them. Using CABI’s expertise, this project uses Earth Observation (EO) and other data to build a... >>