New biochemical pest control trials in Welsh forests
Ground-breaking new biochemical control agents which could help cut the cost of pest control in UK forests are being trialled out on the uplands of Wales in one of the most comprehensive scientific studies to date.
Swansea University spin-out business, Bionema, is developing new products which are already proving to increase kill rates of damaging insects in the laboratory.
And now the West Wales based innovator, working with Natural Resources Wales, is carrying out full scale trials in mid Wales to assess just how effective they are in ‘real life’ – by comparing their cocktail of natural ‘ingredients’ with 14 other similar products and their combinations.
The award winning business’s latest research has already shown that mixtures of fungi, nematodes and other control agents, can increase efficiency of using natural products by up to 40 per cent – and cut costs by 15-20 per cent.
“Foresters have been using these natural products to replace potentially harmful chemicals in the Welsh forests for some time. The problem is that in some cases they seem have to reduced effectiveness in comparison with the more traditional methods,” said Bionema founder and managing director Dr Minshad Ansari.
“Our new product is performing well and the first results of the trial are pointing to a big improvement in pest control, which means increased profits and longer term benefits,” said Dr Ansari. “And part of the key to the success is in the way that these living organisms are managed, something we stress in new training programmes we have developed for the best use of safe, residue free biochemicals”.
“The use of natural organisms to control pests on strawberries and other soft fruit crops instead of chemical pesticides reduces the risk of harmful chemical residues finding their way onto the plate or bowl,” he said.
“In the forests of Wales replacing these potentially dangerous chemicals with natural products completely solves the problem of pesticides finding their way into watercourses and causing other environmental impacts,” he added.
Testing at its facility at Swansea University, the company has also found disturbing results following tests on commercial beneficial nematodes and insects, which attack and kill harmful pests.
“We know from more than 30 years experience that biological control can work just as effectively as potentially damaging traditional chemicals,” said Dr Ansari. ” But we wanted to know what procedures were needed to ensure high kill rates.”
Their testing of three different commercially available products showed that somewhere far more effective than others – and that in one case more than a third of the nematodes in a 50 million pack were dead.
“This can be due to a variety of factors, poor quality stock initially, poor storage and transit, and an extended time frame between manufacture and application for all kinds of reasons,” said Dr Ansari.
“Through training we have been helping growers, agronomists, technical managers, distributors and manufactures both here in the UK and worldwide to understand better that these are natural organisms which need to be treated with care”.
“And one of the first things that all growers should do is to check that they receive the number of live beneficial nematodes or insects that they have paid for, although careful management is essential right through the process,” he said.
“We are developing an exciting range of new products which will be available to meet the expected market demand brought about by legislative changes which are coming through shortly in the horticultural sector,” he said.
“And that is why it is so important that we as an industry get this right, we need to ensure that biopesticides work effectively as the natural alternative to toxic chemical pesticides.”
“EU legislation and consumer led demand means growers have to reduce the use of chemical pesticides in crop production to grow fruits and vegetables with reduced detectable residues,” said Dr Ansari. “We must make sure that we deliver”.