Groundbreaking’ live time’ field trials prove biopesticides are the future for pest control

Wine weevil field

A ‘real time’ field trial investigating the leading biological pesticides on the UK market has revealed spectacular results – live in front of the industry’s major players.

Growers, farmers, advisors and suppliers took part themselves in the trial, run this summer by Wales-based Bionema, a technology development business with big ambitions and three new products on the blocks.

The team is developing its own biopesticides targeted at vine weevil, a serious pest of soft fruits, which causes £40m damage to the UK horticulture industry year and £5 billion worldwide and is developing resistance to traditional chemical pesticides.

Bionema scientists assessed 17 different biocontrol treatments, alongside its own new ‘cocktails’ of nematode, fungi and soil conditioner which the Swansea University spin-out company is pinning its hopes on.

And as the results were unearthed, the trial graphically demonstrated with live vine weevil larvae at Pennoxstone strawberry farm, Hereford, to more than 35 key potential buyers just how effective this ‘new’ method of environment-friendly pest control can be.

“In truth there were no losers. What we conclusively proved is that biocontrol products are successful and, as pests become resistant to commercial pesticides, makes even more sense now for today’s farmers and horticulturalists,” said Bionema managing director Dr Minshad Ansari.

All the commercially available nematode tested provided more than 60 percent vine weevil control in the strawberry trial, with 20 per cent higher kill rates when applied using a wetting agent (accelerator).

More importantly, half the rate of two nematode species used were encapsulated in beads, which provided up to 90% vine weevil control, a 50 per cent cut in costs (see full results below).

Especially pleasing for Bionema was the result of its new nematode products (NemaTrident®), which providing 100% control of the strawberry major pest. The new Met52 OD formation provided up to 90% control, while Met52 granular formulation providing only 70 percent, up to 90% if applied to other species of nematode.

“Obviously we were delighted that our current development project, NemaTrident®, proved to be extremely successful and I believe we can now categorically state that, from these results, biologicals are the future for pest control, provided they are good quality and properly applied,” said Dr Ansari.

The trial was set up in a specially constructed bed at Pennoxstone, with more than 1100 strawberry plants, each one had 30 vine weevil eggs inoculated into the root system before different treatments were applied.

The plants were destructively assessed 12 weeks after treatments and guests encouraged to take part in the count of live larvae in treated and untreated plants. The live larvae were put in Petri dishes to provide a visual display of just how effective each control product was.

“This was an extremely impressive trial, and having the opportunity to see the results as they came through from the growing area was positive proof of the success of these biopesticide products which are becoming increasingly essential,” said soft fruit grower Neil Cockburn, whose farm the trial was conducted on.

Other industry specialists, including Dr Paul Sopp of Fargo who showcased the company’s latest development, Met52 OD formulation, were also given the opportunity of promoting their new products. Jean Antoine of Laboratoire Meiners-Micro, Switzerland, demonstrated the effectiveness for his ‘Micro Capsule Concepts at half rate saving 50% cost for growers. And Jack Ingle, Oro Agri, the soil conditioner which in general increased the nematode efficacy by 20 percent.