Revealed – just which pest control agents really work in the field – and those that don’t

ABIM Basel

The most comprehensive field trials on some of the leading bioinsecticide products and biocontrol agents on the market have revealed major differences in performance against large pine weevil in Sitka spruce.

In of the most comprehensive scientific studies to date, carried out by Welsh development company Bionema in the field, results have identified which company’s products can save foresters money – and those which won’t.

And the spin-out company from Swansea University will be announcing its findings on its stand at the flagship ABIM (Annual Biocontrol Industry Meeting) in Basel, Switzerland, – 24-26 October 2016.

Bionema, is developing new biopesticide products which are already proving to increase kill rates of some of the world’s most damaging insects under test condition. And it has just completed full-scale forest trials to control pine weevil in Sitka spruce to assess just how effective they are in ‘real life’ – by comparing their cocktail of natural ‘ingredients’ with 14 other similar products or their combination.

The award-winning business’s latest research has already shown that mixtures of fungi, nematodes and other control agents, can increase the efficiency of using natural products by up to 40 percent – and cut costs by 15 -20 percent.

“Foresters have been using entomopathogenic nematode products to replace potentially harmful chemicals in the Welsh forests for some time,” said Bionema founder and managing director Dr Minshad Ansari. “The problem is that in some cases they seem have to reduced effectiveness in comparison with the more traditional methods”

“We wanted to find out why that would be, especially as our new cocktail product is performing well, and decided to test it against other market leaders in controlling pine weevil in conifer forests. The results point to a big improvement in control with new products or their combinations, which means increased profits and longer term benefits for foresters,” said Dr Ansari.

“Part of the key to the success is in the way that these living biocontrol agents are managed, something we stress in new training programmes we have developed for the best use of safe, residue free products.”

The use of natural biocontrol agents 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.

“In the forests of Wales replacing these potentially dangerous chemicals with natural products can solve 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 the 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 in the application of biopesticide we have been helping growers 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.”