Biological pest control via nematode 'breeding' and smart fungi

March 10, 2016
Biological pest control via nematode ‘breeding’ and smart fungi

The European project BIOCOMES brings together companies and research institutes that are looking to bring new means of biological pest control to the market as a way for the EU to stimulate integrated pest management (IPM). "After two years, we are now halfway through the project and have already made some concrete achievements," says BIOCOMES coordinator Jürgen Köhl, scientist in phytopathology at Wageningen UR.

Selection for effectiveness

One of the 11 products in the framework of BIOCOMES is a nematode that can be used against the larvae of the corn rootworm. "Working together with universities in the Azores and in Israel, the German company and BIOCOMES partner e-nema managed to 'breed' more effective nematodes by selecting worms that are better able to attack the ," Köhl explains. "In addition, the nematodes were also selected for heat and , making them simpler to use as pest control."

Replacing synthetic methods

Of the 11 products in the BIOCOMES programme, e-nema's nematodes are the closest to representing a concrete commercial product. "This is an excellent example of ," Köhl says. "Right now, is primarily tackled with neonicotinoids. We think it would be good if this project helped us create a biological alternative against these harmful beetles."


Köhl's BIOCOMES team is involved in other areas, such as the selection of fungi that can be used as an antagonist against wheat mildew. "We started our project in Wageningen with some thousand isolates of fungi, which were initially screened for aspects such as drought tolerance. The 185 isolates that remained were used to inoculate grains affected by mildew. We now have ten different fungi which are probably worth the effort to continue to develop against mildew."

Partnerships between industry and research

Köhl and his colleagues are working with German and Swedish companies and research institutes in the mildew project. "This is the great value of this project," he emphasises. "The cooperation between private and academic partners ensures substantive progress on the road to integrated ."

The BIOCOMES , which is subsidised by the EU to the tune of nine million euros, runs until the end of 2017. "While not all subprojects will have resulted in concrete products on the shelves at the end of this period, we are making significant steps in the right direction."

Explore further: Testing new biological plant protection products for effectiveness and practical feasibility

Related Stories

Nematodes vanquish billion dollar pest

June 24, 2010

The larvae of Diabrotica virgifera virgifera beetles wreak havoc on maize. Feasting on the plants' roots, they are estimated to cause $1 billion of damage every year in the US. Ted Turlings from the University of Neuchatel, ...

Recommended for you

Mice can smell oxygen

December 2, 2016

The genome of mice harbours more than 1000 odorant receptor genes, which enable them to smell myriad odours in their surroundings. Researchers at the Max Planck Research Unit for Neurogenetics in Frankfurt, the University ...

How single-celled organisms navigate to oxygen

December 2, 2016

A team of researchers has discovered that tiny clusters of single-celled organisms that inhabit the world's oceans and lakes, are capable of navigating their way to oxygen. Writing in e-Life scientists at the University ...

Natural nomads, leatherback turtles opt to stay in place

December 2, 2016

Endangered leatherback sea turtles are known for their open-ocean migratory nature and nomadic foraging habits – traveling thousands of miles. But a Cornell naturalist and his colleagues have discovered an area along the ...

Neural stem cells serve as RNA highways too

December 1, 2016

Duke University scientists have caught the first glimpse of molecules shuttling along a sort of highway running the length of neural stem cells, which are crucial to the development of new neurons.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.