New natural pesticide…

20 per cent more efficient – new natural pesticide boosts profits and delivers higher kill rates

Bigger profits and better kill rates, that’s the promise of a new UK biopesticide which successfully completed field trials earlier this year – with 20 per cent more efficiency than its nearest rivals.
NemaTrident® CT is the first product to market for the UK’s Bionema, a spin out business from Swansea which is developing a new range of biopesticides products based on 20 years of scientific research. It goes on sale in March 2017 for vine weevil control in soft fruit and ornamentals and pine weevil in forestry.

Targeted at vine and pine weevil, the initial part of the trial programme was carried out in the forests of Wales, where the cold tolerant biocontrol agent, effective down to 8ºC, which uses naturally occurring insect parasitic nematodes (Heterorhabditis downesi) as its base, outperformed the market leader.

Later in the year it was tested against vine weevil in soil grown strawberry near farm in Herefordshire, where again it outperformed all of its major rivals – with a kill rate of 100 percent. This trial was ‘moderated’ by growers, agronomists, distributions and manufactures themselves, who took part in the final vine weevil trial assessment on the farm.

“The key to the success of NemaTrident® CT is the cocktail of ingredients we have used which, acting together, have radically altered performance,” said Bionema CEO Dr Minshad Ansari, speaking in AAB Conference: Advances in IPM 2016 in November this year.

Vine weevil, has been targeted first, a serious pest of soft fruits, it causes £40m damage to the UK horticulture industry yearly and £5 billion worldwide, and recent ban of the widely used insecticide Chlorpyrifos, also known by the trademark Equity exacerbates the problem.

“Our team assessed 17 of the best performing bio-control products and as the results were unearthed, at Pennoxstone farm, Hereford, more than 35 key potential buyers saw just how effective this ‘new’ method of environment friendly pest control can be,” said Dr Ansari.

The active ingredient in NemaTrident® CTis a cold tolerant,naturally occurring insect parasitic nematode (Heterorhabditis downesi) for control of black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) in ornamentals and soft fruit crops, large pine weevil (Hylobiusabietis),citrus longhorn beetle (Anoplophora chinensis) and spruce bark beetle (Ips typographus) in forest. A wetting agent is also used for better performance

“In truth there were no losers. What we conclusively proved is that biocontrol is staggeringly 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 up to 60 per cent vine weevil control in the strawberry trial, with 20 per cent higher kill rates when applied using a wetting agent

Syngenta Crop Protection acquires two bioinsecticides from UK-based biocontrol technology developer, Bionema

  • Syngenta Crop Protection AG has acquired two next generation bioinsecticides, NemaTrident® and UniSpore®, from leading biocontrol technology developer, Bionema Limited.
  • NemaTrident® and UniSpore® will provide customers with additional and complementary technologies to effectively and sustainably manage insect pests and resistance.
  • NemaTrident® and UniSpore® will be the first fully owned biocontrols in the Syngenta Professional Solutions portfolio

Syngenta Crop Protection has acquired two next generation bioinsecticides, NemaTrident®and UniSpore®, to combat increasing resistance and a wide range of insects and pests across horticulture and ornamentals, turf amenity and forestry, giving customers even greater choice. 

Syngenta Crop Protection is acquiring the patents and trademarks for both NemaTrident®and UniSpore®, and the UniSpore®registration dossier, and will have full global development and commercialization rights for the assets. This is an important step in building a world-leading biologicals portfolio in Syngenta Professional Solutions, and opens the opportunity for expansion in biocontrol solutions for crop protection. 

UniSpore®is an innovation based on a naturally occurring microorganism (insect pathogenic fungus). It offers an exciting solution for vine weevil control in ornamentals, where growers across Europe have limited insecticide options. It is currently in the early registration process. 

NemaTrident®, a patented, insect pathogenic nematode solution, is an important addition to Syngenta Professional Solutions’ Turf portfolio and is particularly effective against leather jackets and other pests. The tri-component solution incorporates Nemaspreader®a biocompatible surfactant, that delivers market-leading efficacy. Already available to customers, NemaTrident® is also used in horticulture and forestry to control a number of damaging insects. 

Dr Minshad Ansari, Founder and CEO of Bionema, said, “We are proud to have developed the breakthrough solutions, NemaTrident®and UniSpore®. As our focus is on innovation and the discovery of next generation solutions, we are pleased that Syngenta Crop Protection has acquired these technologies so they can be made globally available for customers seeking additional sustainable solutions.” 

We are delighted to acquire these technologies from Bionema and leverage our scale and reach to put these innovations into the hands of our customers,” Simon Elsworth, Head of Syngenta Professional Solutions Europe, Africa & the Middle East, said. “This acquisition underlines our commitment to build a broad range of sustainable solutions to solve complex problems and strengthens Syngenta’s position as a leader in the turf and ornamentals markets.” 2 

Syngenta and Bionema have regular communications regarding novel formulations and new technologies.

About Bionema Limited

Bionema Limited is a leading bioprotection technology developer, specializing in chemical-free, biological crop protection for safe and sustainable pest and disease control. The company manufactures and commercializes its own range of biocontrol products and provides training and consultancy services aimed at optimizing biological approaches to pest control. Our research is focused on the development and commercialization of naturally occurring microorganisms to protect crops from pests and disease while reducing the use of synthetic pesticides, minimizing the environmental impact, and increasing crop yields. For further information about Bionema’s R&D,

Bionema Appoints TurfCare distributor for Nematrident® range in Ireland

Bionema Ltd, a leading biopesticide technology company, has signed a distribution agreement with TurfCare to sell its unique patented NemaTrident® range of products on an exclusive basis in the turf, leisure and amenity sector in Ireland.

NemaTrident® is a Tri-Component patented, environmentally friendly solution used to control more than 50 different insect species including chafer grubs and leatherjackets. These pests eat grass roots and can cause devastating damage to golf courses, sports turf and ornamental lawns. According to a research report conducted by independent agricultural and environmental consultancy ADAS the economic cost of damage by chafer grubs at UK golf courses alone is estimated to be £85million a year, from lost income and damage repair, and lost income by 40% of UK racecourses affected by pest damage could amount to £605,000 per course.

Bionema’s NemaTrident® Tri-Component patented solution incorporates a range of highly virulent insect-parasitic nematodes within the Heterorhabditis and Steinernema genera, a biocompatible wetting agent (Nemaspreader®) and expert advice. These nematodes attack and destroy the larvae of the insect pests – preventing future pests from developing. They are safe, non-toxic to users and consumers, decompose rapidly and can be targeted at specific pests to avoid harming beneficial insects. These sustainable products provide 70-95% success rates in combating pests.

TurfCare is a leading distributor of fertilizers, seed, irrigation and other amenity sector specialist products within Ireland and the company is constantly on the lookout for innovative products within the sport and amenity sectors. Bionema has partnered with TurfCare because it believes it has the best product knowledge and insight into the Irish turf and amenity sector and is well-positioned to include the NemaTrident® range of biological products.

Commenting on the partnership, Dr Minshad Ansari, Bionema founder and CEO, said: “In a market with significant potential, there is a clear opportunity for TurfCare to continue helping greenkeepers, grounds managers, racecourse managers and landscapers in the control of chafer grubs and leatherjackets, when chemicals are banned across Europe.”

Pat Galavan, CEO at Turf Care said: “Our role is to combine all the potential solutions for our customers throughout Ireland.  Our staff have all been briefed on the most effective way to use the Nematrident® range of nematodes to help control chafer grubs and leatherjackets as part of an Integrated Pest Management programme.”

Bionema secures new patent for novel biocontrol kit

Bionema Ltd, a leading biopesticide technology company, has today been granted a UK patent for a novel pest control kit and method that provides safe and sustainable protection from larval insect pests.

The 20th century saw an agricultural revolution, as chemical pesticides were widely used to provide the crop yields necessary to feed a rapidly expanding global population. Unfortunately, as agriculture became steadily more intensive, with heavier machinery, larger fields, and the use of toxic pesticides, we inadvertently poisoned our soils, our water, and our air, impacting our own health and that of our planet.

We need to cultivate crops in a sustainable manner that maximizes yields while not harming the environment. A ready solution lies in bioprotectants – these products are created from highly virulent strains of naturally occurring biological control agents (entomopathogenic nematodes). When used correctly, bioprotection products can offer effective pest control in different cropping systems. Unfortunately, due to lack of understanding about how to use them correctly when they were first introduced in the 1980s and 90s, they gained a reputation for inefficacy. This is why creating the conditions for these micro-organisms to thrive, and associated education, are vital components of biopesticide use.

Bionema has always embraced these three elements in the Bionema Tri-Component Solution, which consists of:

  1. Specially developed, highly virulent strains of beneficial nematodes, NemaTrident®
  2. A biocompatible wetting agent that helps the nematodes to spread and thrive, Nemaspreader®
  3. Specialist training and advice on how to optimise the effectiveness of the nematodes.

Now, Bionema has been granted a new patent (UK Patent No. 2581540) that provides this unique tri-component offering ‘in a box’.

The pest control kit comprises an amount of entomopathogenic nematodes from the Heterorhabditis or Steinernema genera (depending on the target pest), a wetting agent composition (comprising a solvent and a surfactant) and comprehensive instructions for use. The kit provides biological control of immature larval insects which can act as pests to plants, including agricultural, forestry, horticultural, turf and amenities, or home garden use. The new pest control kit aims to provide safe and sustainable insect protection for turf and plants all year round.

“The technology associated with this product is both unique and cost-effective,” declared Dr Minshad Ansari, CEO of Bionema. “Moreover, it is simple and user-friendly when used as part of this kit. We will always be there to support our customers and provide any advice they need, but this pest control kit is now available for people confident enough to go it alone, and it equips them to get the results they need from these beneficial nematodes.”

This is a particularly timely innovation, when leatherjackets and chafer grubs – both of which can be controlled by beneficial nematodes – are currently devastating golf courses, racecourses, football pitches and cricket rounds. Here are a few successful reports of the efficacy of this tri-component solution and how this can help save to millions of pounds in turf damage.

  • Neath Golf Club Head Greenkeeper Mark Tucker used Bionema’s NemaTrident® Tri-Component solution because it was “more sustainable for the environment” and says he was thrilled with the results. “We’ve witnessed more than 85-90% control of leatherjackets in the first year. I was very sceptical about nematodes, but the results spoken for themselves. Last year we were hitting 30 leatherjackets per 20cm2 but after one year we are hitting zero.”
  • Darren Griffiths, Groundsman at Constantine Cricket Club near Falmouth, says he realised he had a leatherjacket infestation when he noticed that rooks were pecking for grubs on his cricket pitches and outfield and destroying the turf. He contacted Bionema and followed the training guidelines to properly handle and apply the NemaTrident® Tri-Component solution. Three months later, he said the turf had improved dramatically and the club members were able to enjoy a leatherjacket-free season.
  • Phillip Chiverton, Golf Course and Estate Manager, The Grove, says that the effective control of pests has been a steep learning curve for the greenkeeping team at The Grove over the past three years and included a lot of commitment by everyone. “By keeping to Bionema’s plan, the results are clear to see. I was very sceptical at the start, but we now have zero damage by chafer grubs, and how we keep this success ongoing is the next step of our journey with Bionema.”

The new kit adds to Bionema’s portfolio of products for the agriculture, horticulture, turf amenity and forestry sectors. Bionema is a leading UK biopesticides technology developer, specialising in chemical-free, biological crop protection for safe and sustainable agriculture.

EU Biopesticide regulation: Can technology developers survive?

The high cost and lengthy requirements for EU registration are severely limiting the development and commercialisation of BioProtection solutions in Europe – this needs to be addressed urgently.

BioProtection (known as biopesticide) solutions present one of the fastest growing sectors in crop protection and pest control, but their development and uptake are being delayed and obstructed in the EU by irrelevant regulations that are preventing them from reaching the market. There is an urgent need for a review of European regulatory requirements for BioProtection solutions, to ensure that end-users in the EU have access to these products and to allow developers and manufacturers in the EU to compete fairly with their counterparts in other parts of the world.

For centuries, chemical pesticides have been used to control crop pests. Currently, US$70 billion is spent on chemical pesticides annually (MarketsAndMarkets research report, 2020), in efforts to control crop pests that cause $470 bn of damage worldwide (T.W. Culliney, 2014). However, due to indiscriminate use of these toxic chemicals, more than 500 species of insects, mites and spiders have developed some level of pesticide resistance. Already in the EU, almost all of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) international ‘dirty dozen’ pesticides (actually covering 17 different pesticide groups) have now been banned, with the notable exception of the highly hazardous herbicide paraquat, due to their negative impact on human health and the environment. Alternative BioProtection solutions, which harness natural enemies of pests and diseases, offer a cleaner, effective way to fill the gap in the market.

BioProtection Market

BioProtection solutions comprise natural materials derived from animals, plants, and bacteria, as well as certain minerals, that are used for pest control. Almost 50% of the microbial BioProtection solutions currently available on the market are derived from only one entomopathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis or ‘Bt’.  BioProtection solutions comprise a small share of the total crop protection market globally, with a value of about $4.3 bn worldwide, but this share is growing at an estimated 14.7% CGAR and it is expected to reach $8.5 bn by 2025 (MarketsAndMarkets, 2020).

The growth of this sector is important, as the world’s future demands ever-increasing food production to feed an expanding world population, while regulators across the globe are banning toxic chemicals that leave gaps in our ability to control various crop pests.

BioProtection solutions have become increasingly popular in recent years and are considered safer than conventional pesticides. BioProtection products are by their nature less detrimental and are more specific to the target pests. Additionally, these solutions are effective in small amounts and decompose quickly without leaving residues. Therefore, they could reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, as an essential part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Regulations of BioProtection

BioProtection products are assessed in the EU by the same regulations used for the assessment of chemical active substances. However, solutions that contain living micro-organisms (such as bacteria, fungi or viruses) are not chemicals – they are biological products that are subject to a range of different requirements and concerns. For example, rather than requiring levels of environmental toxicity – when no chemical toxicity exists – regulators could instead focus on the natural features of the micro-organisms involved, and possibly even their potential to harm to beneficial insects rather than their positive effect on crop pests and diseases (however, it must be noted that harm to beneficial insects is usually minimal, as nature is generally target-specific in order to maintain its natural balance).

Currently, there are fewer BioProtection active substances registered in the EU than in the United States (US), India, Brazil, or China. In the US market, where the biological advantage of these solutions has been more formally recognised, more than 200 BioProtection products are already available, compared to 60 products in the EU market. The relatively low number of registered BioProtection products in the EU is related to the greater complexity of EU-based BioProtection regulations.

Biocontrol products generally have little or no effect on human health, non-target organisms and the environment. However, the registration of BioProtection products continues to be a lengthy process. Since 2009, active substances and products for use in agriculture have been evaluated in accordance with Regulation 1107/2009. The data requirements are the same for active substances and chemical and microbial products, which often cause obstacles when registering BioProtection products. Some data requirements that can be easily met for synthetic chemicals cannot be met for microbial products and for technical reasons. This takes much longer than US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration. Moreover, the high cost ($5-10 million) related to the single registration of new agents is another aspect limiting the commercialisation of new products.

Experience of SMEs

The BioProtection sector is dominated by micro SMEs, many of which were initiated by academics/scientists with ground-breaking ideas. However, those ideas will never come to fruition if the innovations inspired by these brilliant entrepreneurs continue to be obstructed by costly, over-complicated, unnecessary regulations.

If new products could reach the market more quickly, they would generate income that would enable these micro businesses to survive. Faster procedures and enforcement of time limits are important. It cannot be denied that the EU registration process of BioProtection products impedes the commercialisation of these products.

The biocontrol sector is unique in that it comprises many small enterprises and start-ups alongside the giants of the AgriTech industry. Dr Minshad Ansari, Founder and CEO of Bionema said:

The regulatory authorities should try to ensure fast-track registration of BioProtection products based on justified regulations, promoting the adoption of safer technologies in the development of commercial products. Additionally, the regulatory system should enable small-medium enterprises dealing with BioProtection to develop, so that they can provide growers with reliable tools for the economical control of pests and allow them to supply products that meet the expectations of consumers.


BioProtection products have long been attracting global attention as a safer approach than chemical pest control practices, with potentially less risk to humans and the environment. To this end, regulators should not compare BioProtection products with chemical pesticides.

The discovery of new microbial control agents and research on formulation and delivery could boost the efficacy of BioProtection and consumer satisfaction. However, regulations must be adapted to make the development and commercialisation of these solutions more feasible, otherwise there will be a huge gap in the market after the removal of banned toxic chemical pesticides.

The recent EU commitment to reduce pesticide use by 50% within next 10 years is the right way forward, from an environmental and human health point of view. However, BioProtection products cannot fill this gap in the market if the current lengthy, and costly, EU registration process continues.

Bionema launches BioProtection training courses 

Bionema, a UK based BioProtection (Biopesticide) technology developer, has launched digital, classroom and bespoke training courses to educate end-users, distributors and consultants on the effective use of BioProtection products as an alternative to chemical pest control.

BioProtection products are being developed and used across the world to ensure safe and sustainable agricultural. However, many end users are not fully familiar with the effective use of biocontrol agents – such as nematodes fungi, bacteria, viruses and beneficial insects and need a better understanding of how best to apply them, as the way they are stored, handled, and applied are important considerations and can result in improved efficacy.

Bionema’s courses have been developed to maximise the efficacy of biological products in a learning environment that suits customer needs and ensures product success. 

The digital training courses are designed to allow self-paced learning in the delegate’s own time – giving flexibility to study around other commitments. These courses have been written with the needs of commercial distributors and end users – such as growers, farmers, greenkeepers, grounds personnel, foresters, agronomists and integrated pest management practitioners – in mind. 

Delegates can also learn in a classroom format and a bespoke version can be designed to reflect a client’s environment, knowledge and individual needs. Each course is worth 12 BASIS or 4 NRoSO CPD points. 

These courses include presentations, practical workshops and demonstrations of different BioProtection products.  Every course delegate will develop a complete understanding of product application within an integrated pest management system, which will help them maximise pest control performance. 

Dr Minshad Ansari, Founder and CEO of Bionema said: “These courses have been designed for those who are new to BioProtection or who would like to refresh their knowledge. For example, learners will receive a complete introduction of the use of entomopathogenic nematodes as well as an introduction to pest identification, product formulations and application.

The training courses have been carefully developed by specialist biocontrol experts to ensure that product end users have a thorough and complete knowledge of effective use. By having a better understanding on how to use the product correctly, growers we have worked with have already seen a 30-40% uplift in effective pest and disease control, using BioProtection products, which makes the additional knowledge found in these courses invaluable.”

Bionema is inviting training providers who would like to partner in the delivery of digital courses.  The current courses include:

Course 1 – Application of entomopathogenic nematodes for insect pest control

Course 2 – Application of BioProtection products for pests and diseases control

Course 3 – Application of beneficial biocontrol agents for insect pest control

More information regarding  training can be found here:

To find out more about becoming a training provider or embarking on a Bionema course contact: or call +44 (0)1792 606916 

Want to know more?

Bionema Limited is a leading UK biopesticide technology developer, specialising in chemical-free, biological crop protection for safe and sustainable agriculture. If you wish to know more about Biological Crop Protection please do not hesitate to call us on 01792 606916 or alternatively, learn more via our news coverage.

Bionema Limited, Room Number 009, Institute of Life Science 1, Singleton Park, Swansea University, Swansea, SA2 8PP

Investment in BioProtection to increase organic food production

Bionema Ltd, a leading UK-based biopesticide technology developer, is working on effective, eco-friendly solutions to reduce the chemical residue on crops and increase organic food production. However, founder and CEO Dr Minshad Ansari is concerned that, although there are many products in development, the limited number of BioProtection products currently registered for use in the UK and the EU is not fulfilling the current demand in the agriculture, horticulture, sport turf and forestry sectors.

The recent EU commitment to reduce pesticide use by 50% within next 10 years is the right way forward, from an environmental and human health point of view, however BioProtection products cannot fill this gap in the market if the current lengthy, and costly, EU registration process continues. This takes much longer than US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration,” Dr Ansari says.

Despite a huge growth in the global BioProtection market, which is growing at an estimated 16% CGAR and is expected to reach US$10 billion by 2025, there is urgent need for the continued development and commercialisation of BioProtection products not only to replace traditional pesticide use but, more-importantly, to increase overall food production as the world population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050.

The Bionema technical team is currently working with growers, greenkeepers, sport turf managers and foresters by using a holistic technical and practical approach to combat the most damaging economic pests and diseases in their sectors, while helping to reduce pesticide residues in food and non-food crops.

Bionema researchers, funded by Innovate UK, the Welsh Government, the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP) and Green investors, have already assessed hundreds of natural insect-killing fungi, nematodes and bacteria to investigate their commercial use potential for the management of pests and diseases. Its laboratory, glasshouse, and field trials, conducted in UK and in the EU, have shown promising results and key products are now going through EU registration. These product formulations were tested against major economic soil and foliar feeding insect pests in the horticulture, sports turf, and the forestry sectors, some which had developed pesticide resistance.

Referring to the success of recent product trials, Dr Ansari says: “The use of nematodes with a biocompatible wetting agent, for example, successfully controlled vine weevils in soft fruits and ornamentals and also controlled chafer grubs and leatherjackets infestations in golf courses and pine weevils in pine forests. There are further efficacy trials planned over the next couple of years, which will include next generation product and formulation testing in the UK and overseas and we are looking forward to seeing positive results in the effective pest control of economically-damaging insects in high value crops.”

Bionema researchers have analysed the cost benefits of using BioProtection products versus chemical pesticides for organic and conventional food production and the results are very promising. It also continues in its research of product formulations and delivery systems to increase overall efficacy especially against soft body insects – such as western flower thrips, aphids, spider mites and fruit flies in high value crops – to meet end user demands for better efficacy.

However, BioProtection products must be applied properly for effective use and this is where Bionema’s training courses for end users, agronomists and IPM practitioners is essential.

For more information, please contact Karen Maxwell, Director at Karma Communications. +44 (0)7866 736 597;

A Case Study: Neath Golf Club

A Case Study: Biological control of leatherjackets at Neath Golf Club

Set on the hills overlooking the coast of South Wales sits Neath Golf Club. In late-2018, their golf course suffered from an overwhelming infestation of leatherjackets. Dying grass exposed rough soil as badgers tore up the turf for a tasty meal, which meant parts of the course simply became unplayable.

Neath needed a solution. Chemical controls for turf pests have been phased out which has left many course managers searching for an alternative. Neath Golf Club decided to try something new – Bionema, a leading UK biopesticide developer. Led by Dr Minshad Ansari, a biological expert with over 20 years’ experience, Bionema began to investigate the problem.

Bionema helped Neath Golf Club develop and implement a one-year plan using our unique Tri-Component solution:

For biological control of leatherjackets in amenity/sports turf and landscaped areas
For biological control of leatherjackets in amenity/sports turf and landscaped areas

1. Beneficial nematodes: NemaTrident®L

2. Our biocompatible wetting agent: NemaSpreader®

3. Our expert training and advice

4. Rapid turf biostimulant: NutriStimula®Turf


Bionema’s experts confirmed leatherjacket identification as the pest: Tipula paludosa – the daddy long leg. With this information, we set out a 1-year plan identifying optimal NemaTrident®L application times to align with the most vulnerable stages of the lifecycle:

  • Late-April: Spring application
  • Late-September: Autumn application

Each season consisted of full dose nematode applied twice at weekly interval to help prolong the efficacy of the nematodes. Applications were done using a boom sprayer. Aeration equipment was used to make tiny holes which helped the nematodes bypass the thatch and be delivered to their target.

To help with the rapidly-approaching 2019 golf season, we suggested the use of NutriStimula®Turf to help their turf recover quickly for a healthy playing surface.

Larval density was used to monitor the results. Records of larval density were taken from soil plugs on each approach. This occurred at regular intervals through the year.


Bionema’s plan worked. One-year on, Neath Golf Club had experienced an incredible 89% decline in grub density across the course with all trial areas surpassing 70% control. NutriStimula®Turf offered rapid grass growth and healthy restoration of the damaged course for the 2019 golf season.


Successful control of the leatherjackets at Neath Golf Club has:

Leatherjacket Q&A: Summary

MA = Minshad Ansari: Bionema CEO and leading biopesticide technology developer

PC = Peter Corbett: Business Development Manager at Rigby Taylor and industry expert

MT = Mark Tucker: Head Greenkeeper at Neath Golf Course

Leatherjackets have been a real problem in turf sectors following a mild winter, with many golf courses experiencing heavy infestations across the UK. The problem is two-fold; leatherjackets feast on the roots of grass leaving large bare patches on the surface, while passing wildlife will tear up the turf for a quick snack which can be very costly to repair. It was for this reason, we got together three experts in their respective fields to discuss the leatherjacket problem faced around the UK – and answer some of your questions to help you get ahead. Take a read.

Q1: After a mild winter, what challenges have sectors involved in turf management faced?

PC: Having come from a very wet autumn, and then no rain for 6 weeks, turf has experienced extreme conditions. Climate change is creating challenges when managing turf surfaces, and coupled with Covid-19, it has been difficult for companies.

MT: Leatherjacket larvae this time last year was ridiculous, 150+ per square metre. We decided to try nematodes last year with success on our approaches. This year, our greens have suffered; larvae are 80+ per square metre. These areas were not treated with nematodes.

Q2: I have seen a lot of leatherjackets early in the morning on the surface of my greens moving around. Why is this happening?

MA: Leatherjackets are becoming active in the spring season, so when the weather becomes warmer, they become more active. Why it’s happening is due to a high population; too many larvae under the soil come to the surface for feeding.

PC: Understanding the life cycle and how pests behave and how they modify their behaviour is a key part to dealing with pests. If we don’t understand how a pest is behaving, we don’t know how to treat them. High, dense populations of pests like leatherjacket will behave differently to optimal lower populations.

Q3: How can people identify that they have a problem before the damage is done?

MA: Crucial question; sampling is the way forward. Turf professionals should be checking the turf and soil samples in spring and autumn, when they will find the larvae underneath. The best way to monitor is by sampling, taking a soil plug or core, as there are no traps available for larvae yet so monitoring larval population is paramount.

PC: There should be threshold levels set by industry standards so that people are aware of what needs treating and that can be used to help golf courses, for example, monitor their pests.

MA: There are different thresholds established by a few people based on limited information, but larval population should not be exceeding >30 per square metre, higher than that leads to fast increase in population. Keep the population below the threshold to reduce the turf infestation.

MT: The biggest problem was in 2019. Due to the weather, roots were compromised and the turf suffered worse.

PC:  If the turf isn’t under stress, then the turf can cope with more pests. Essentially, it comes down to good management practises and keeping the turf healthy.

MA: Setting a threshold for leatherjacket does help with turf improvement and a healthy turf can fight against pests and disease or can tolerate low populations.

Q4: Follow-up to Q3 – When should people be sampling their turf through the year?

MA: I would recommend people keep records and sample their turf every couple of months and keep records of these results. Rigorous soil sampling and pest identification will help to design a control programme if needed.

PC: The greenkeepers are key. They know when things are right, and things are wrong. There are things we can do to help but we cannot replace your observational skills, and this means keeping records. Keeping records is crucial, and active data capture is a critical point going forward for any solution we are trying to achieve.

MA: When I visited Neath Golf Club, their records were impeccable, and they had a good idea where the problems were. Sometimes the dilemma is finding a population and thinking they are ok but understanding the threshold per square metre is essential.

Q5: Sheets have helped drive leatherjackets to the surface, but this isn’t practical for when we reopen. Is there any way of driving leatherjackets to the surface without using sheets?

MA: Early in the morning, after 4 am, leatherjackets tend to come to greens and as soon as the sun heats the grass they start going back, however, a few of them left on the grass can be eaten by birds, causing further turf damage. There is no attractant available in the market for larvae or adults! So, what you want to do is drive the nematodes down to the leatherjackets – this can be done using a biocompatible wetting agent, which we at Bionema have developed for fast action.

Q 6: Are pest problems linked to the health of my turf?

PC: Generally, if turf is under stress, then whatever is attacking it, you will find the symptoms of the disease or pest will be worse. The further we can go in getting the agronomy right, keeping the crop healthy and keeping the nutrient levels and water levels right, the better the turf can support itself.

Q7: What controls are out there for leatherjacket and how easy are they to use?

MA: For leatherjackets, there are no other biological controls apart from beneficial nematodes in the UK. These have been commercialised and sold to different sectors. The biggest problem in turf and amenity is application; when we sort this out, we will have better control.

The problem is just putting the nematodes in the tank and spraying it. When they land on the grass, they try to penetrate the turf thatch which is a big obstacle and exposure to UV light for more can be very harmful to the nematodes.

Soil aeration and soil being wet is imperative, and I promise that by doing this, it will really help you get great results.

Q8: How did you get on with using the nematodes at Neath Golf Course?

MT: I was very sceptical initially, as nematodes have had a bad press. When Minshad came to see us last year, we decided to give it a go, when larvae were up to over 180 per square metre.

We applied the first nematodes in late April, and with the knowledge Minshad gave us, was so simple. Two weeks later we applied again – it’s just so simple but must be done correctly. Moisture is crucially important. A second application in September helped to reduce leatherjackets further.

PC: There is no doubt that if a nematode gets in contact with the leatherjacket, it will work. This is the same issue for chemicals too, water is critical.

Q9: I’ve mainly used chemicals, but many are becoming unavailable. Are biological methods as effective?

PC: It’s not straight forward. Up to now, conventional products have been effective for most pest species. But for good scientific and ecological reasons a number are now not available or will become unavailable. A new product coming into the market will be very difficult to come through the registration process, whereas biological products are a lot easier; naturally occurring nematodes are better.

Nematodes have been around for a long time; generally, not as effective as conventional products. BUT this comes to how you are using them, and what you are comparing it to.

MA: The pest problems experienced in the horticulture sector, with fruits and vegetables, are driving biological products. The turf industry is still a bit reluctant to go down this path, but with the chemicals they used to use, many banned in 2016, there is now a solution in biological products.  We, as a company, are trying to help educate Greenkeepers about how and when to use the nematodes. When something is alive, there are requirements for storage and transportation… but, the effort is worth it. You don’t need to use the same amount in the following years as nematodes can reproduce on killed larvae up to 50,000-100,000. Other products could have a detrimental effect on nematodes or other microbial products. It’s important to understand that the combination of nematodes and other products could have alternative aims.

Q10: If applying your nematodes, how can we measure them in the soil? And can these be cultured in with a compost tea brew before application?

MA: Yes, there can be other nematodes in the same field. Taking a soil sample and baiting with Galleria larvae or any other insect larvae can be done; if a nematode is present in the soil, the killed larvae will turn yellow or red. Yes, nematodes can be mixed with tea compost or chemicals, but their compatibility should be checked before.

Q11: One the one hand, chemicals are being phased out due to their impact on the environment and, in part, insect populations. On the other, people need to manage their land for their businesses and to make a living. How can these opposing stances be brought together?

MA: Integrated pest management (or integrated turf management) where turf practitioners are being advised not to just use a single product. In horticulture, this has been used for a while – introducing an insect before the chemical. When managed properly and being aware of how these products interact, you can judge the application time to ensure minimal negative interactions for an effective control programme. In turf, there are mainly bioinsecticides and bio fungicides. Despite a slightly higher cost, they can offer long-term control if used correctly.

PC: From a chemical background, I can’t dispute the science. However, essentially if we want to control something, we will have to kill it. Going forwards, we want to ensure the methods we use don’t have other negative effects on the environment. While greenkeepers need to manage their land, they need to take a wider approach now and individual ‘one-size-fits-all’ products simply aren’t going to be there. So, integrating turf management approaches will be key going forward to produce a healthy turf for the end-user.

Q12: Mark, how much attention is paid to beneficial insects and environmental concerns when planning turf management on your golf course?

MT: It’s huge and it has changed. When golfed boomed in the late 90’s, the approach was get out and spray with anything to get a good surface, but the mindset of greenkeepers has changed considerably over the last 10 years. There is more interest in science and greenskeepers are understanding the issues a lot more. Looking at BTME, science is probably 30% of management courses. With chemicals being taken away from us, we have to be open minded and look at alternatives that are sustainable and biologicals are the way forward.

PC: The key is learning how to use the products in the right way, which is a challenge considering the complex ecosystem we are dealing with. The industry also needs to conduct trials to benefit everyone in the future.

MT: In the old days you would go and chuck 40% nitrogen fertiliser on and see immediate great results, but these days it is more about building up a healthy soil and looking at soil biology. Stick to your plan, stick to your goals, and this can be hard if you don’t get immediate results – but trust the science that you will see the results.

PC: Again, helping educate the greenkeepers is important going forward. Letting end users as golfers be more aware, we need to educate them to let them know that there are certain things are outside your control – dealing with a huge natural ecosystem and limited natural tools to play with.

Q13: What integrated pest methods are available and how can we involve those who will use this?

MA: Integrated pest management is quite old, and factors in cultural, physical, chemical and biological considerations – and monitoring for pests and diseases.  Monitoring pests and disease aren’t happening at most golf courses now, as chemical methods were quite effective. As these have gone and large pest populations are booming, we need to monitor as this is paramount and part of integration.

It is very much education, and based on my experience, at the moment companies are based more on sales than education. This will help integrate different products in the same soil. I’m not aware of any other company in the sector providing free education and training products like we do at Bionema, as we make it a priority to educate to give a better knowledge of how we can be a part of integrated pest management solution.

Q14: Golf course patches are getting torn up and repairs are becoming very expensive. What can I do?

PC: Identify the problem; the level of problem can range from badger to pheasants, so identify what is causing the problem and then look at what methods can be used to mitigate the problem. I guess it is a predator, such as a badger, looking for a meal – grubs or larvae. Of course, managing a badger is a different issue to managing crows and rooks which can peck at turf.

MT: Remove the food source and you will stop them digging what they are trying to dig for.

Q15: Can nematodes damage turf?

MA: Yes. There are many different types of nematode, one of which is the plant parasitic nematode which causes very serious turf damage, 20-80% economic damage has been reported. These plant parasitic nematodes are very difficult to control but there are one or two bionematicide products are available. Maintaining healthy turf can be a good idea to reduce stress.

PC: The services are there for sampling and analysis, which Rigby Taylor alongside other companies can offer. When you find the problem, you can find the solution. Within nematode genera, there are a huge number of nematode species. If you take the mass of all the nematodes on the earth surface, it is greater than any other group.

MA: Plant-parasite nematodes feed from inside and outside the root, but when they enter inside – very difficult to control. The plant will get stressed and start to show symptoms. Soil sampling again comes here again.

Q16: Leatherjackets all but went away last year after using nematodes, do I need to continue to reapply nematodes more the once?

MA: Its normal that after you apply a product, like nematodes, you want to see an immediate effect. Its very much depends on the start point, if population is very high or above the threshold then you need two application per year and continue for 3 years to reduce the population to below the threshold.  In year one, you will see 50-60% control, second year 80%, third year over 90%.

Q17: Looking forward, what are the biggest challenges to turf management?

PC: Number of challenges, across the spectrum. One of the biggest concerns is eutrophication – the amount of nutrients entering water courses from chemicals applied on land. The industry will have to work on the utilisation of the CORRECT nutrients. While in most sectors like agriculture, earthworms are very beneficial. For turf, this a huge challenge going forward. Also, managing increasing pest populations spotting these in advance – such as leatherjacket and chafer grubs – will be a challenge. Finally, the level of disease within the greens as the tool set that we have is reduced.

MA: This is a huge question with wide scope. Keeping an eye out for new pests and diseases which impact turf will be important. Also, the removal of chemical pesticides has created a vacuum in the industry for pest control and learning the new measures. Hats off to all greenkeepers, as they do a tremendous job!

Q18: During lockdown, do you manage turf differently?

MT: Yes, a lot of less staff on the course. We are leaving the grass a bit longer on the greens and tees as we don’t have to prepare the surfaces for playing; we are managing stress levels on the course, so we don’t need to worry about that but working within the current guidelines. It’s just about keeping the stress off the course.

A note for our listeners:

MA: The pest problem is increasing so we must wake up now; my message to greenkeepers is to do soil sampling and check the population before it’s become too serious – keep the leatherjackets population below 30 per square meter.

PC: Look out and assess the areas where the issue is, identify pest population levels and make records then asses the issue against the threshold. If you need to do something about it, make sure you do so before the next generation emerges.

Q19: How can people access more information?

MA: Find out more on our Bionema website, we have free training on our website and what we can do to help you. Follow our twitter account, @Bionema, feel free to ask us a question or DM us. Bionema released White Paper to Turf and Spore, first in the industry. Not a large document, very fine information and very informative guide for turf professionals.

PC: Understanding the science is the most helpful and looking at the experts and what they are telling you is the crucial part; understanding and education.

MT: Anyone can email me for the grassroots perspective of nematode application at Neath Golf Club. Follow us on twitter @NeathGolfClub.

Launch of Bionema White Paper

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Bionema white paper explains how biopesticides can fill gaps in turf management left by banned chemical pesticides

Bionema Ltd, a leading biopesticide technology developer, has released its first of a series of white papers explaining how biopesticides can control turf pests that are currently causing widespread devastation due to the recent banning of chemical pesticides. This first paper offers helpful advice to those that work in the turf and amenities sector.

Insect pests such as leatherjackets and chafer grubs have been known to destroy turf on golf courses, sports fields, racecourses and landscape, causing millions of pounds of damage annually. Until recently, turf and amenity managers were able to control these pests with chemical pesticides, but those products are no longer on the market due to concerns over toxicity. Thankfully, biopesticides offer an effective alternative solution.

The new white paper, released today by Bionema, explains how certain species of beneficial nematodes (roundworms) actively search for insect larvae in the soil. They enter the insects through natural openings and release lethal bacteria that kill them within 24-72 hours. This is a natural process, as it forms part of these nematodes’ life cycle.

The new guidance document provides invaluable advice on choosing the right approach for the management of turf pests and explains that – when mixed, stored and applied correctly – biopesticides containing these beneficial nematodes can offer an effective, sustainable and cost-effective solution.

The white paper author Dr Minshad Ansari, Founder & CEO of Bionema, said: “When using any biopesticides, it is important to remember that you are dealing with living organisms, which tend to have optimal windows for performance. For example, factors like temperature, pH or humidity can have a significant impact on the performance of most of the biocontrol agents. Nematodes are particularly susceptible to ultra-violet light and desiccation, so biopesticides containing nematodes should only be applied early in the morning or late in the evening when there is less direct sunlight.”

By adhering to the application advice contained within the white paper, enhanced nematode performance can be built into a successful application regime by grounds managers, greenkeepers and landscapers to ensure effective pest control – without the use of harmful chemicals.

The white paper also includes information on the effective use of Bionema’s NemaTrident® biopesticide programme, which comprises three standard components: the beneficial nematodes; the NemaSpreader®- a biocompatible wetting agent that helps the nematodes to spread and reach the target; and the specialist training and advice to help customers optimise the effectiveness of the programme.

Dr Ansari concluded: “By using all three parts of the programme – beneficial nematodes, wetting agent and expert advice – you’ll get great results from controlling your turf pests with nematodes. The new white paper explains these steps in detail and provides easy-to-understand information on the science behind this biopesticide.

If you would like to speak to one of Bionema’s technical experts about the management of turf pests, please contact