BIOLOGICAL PEST CONTROL OF INSECT PESTS THAT THREATEN TREE HEALTH

Lead Research Organisation: Food & Environment Research Agency -FERA
Department Name: Crop & Food Security

Abstract

The Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Expert Taskforce has identified a number of insects that pose a threat to UK trees and recommended that the UK "Develop and implement procedures for preparedness and contingency planning to predict, monitor and control the spread of pests". They also identified detection and biological control as areas of tree health where there were considerable knowledge gaps.

BIPESCO is an interdisciplinary project that will develop entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) and botanicals to control insect pests that pose a threat to UK trees. Botanicals with attractant or repellent properties will be used alone or with EPF in novel "lure and kill" and "stress and kill" pest control strategies. Attractants will be used to improve pest monitoring and mass trapping.

BIPESCO is timely because new EU legislation encourages the use of natural products as environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides, usage of which is being severely restricted (Directive 2009/128/EC). Demand for natural products is increasing, and will continue to increase. Thus, opportunity exists to develop these agents, and strategies that enhance their efficacy, to facilitate adoption in the market.

BIPESCO's specific aims are:
1. Identify strains of EPF pathogenic to current and emergent pest species.
2. Identify botanicals that attract or repel target pests.
3. Optimise synergy of EPF and botanicals for use in "lure and kill" and "stress and kill" strategies, and increase knowledge of mechanisms involved.
4. Validate efficacy of candidate EPF and botanicals in demonstration trials
5. Conduct risk assessments of products and strategies
6. Utilise data to determine socioeconomic benefits of products and strategies.

BIPESCO (Swansea University [SU; lead], Fera and Forest Research [FR]) have considerable experience in management of tree pests and development of new products and strategies to control them. SU has developed EPF and botanicals for pest control including the EPF Metarhizium anisopliae, which is effective in controlling pine weevil (PW) and black vine weevil. SU has identified several PW behaviour-modifying botanicals, and patented a PW attractant. SU will use its expertise to develop attractants and repellents for other pest species. Fera has experience working with emergent pest species such as oak processionary moth (a close relative of the pine processionary moth, PPM) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB). Fera will evaluate EPF and botanicals provided by SU against PPM and ALB in state-of-the-art quarantine facilities. Together with SU, they will identify synergies between EPF and botanicals and elucidate how stressing compounds enhance EPF efficacy. FR has expertise in management and modelling of a range of forest pests and has developed systems that advise growers on when to use pesticides. Together with SU and Fera, FR will test selected products and strategies in forest systems. BIPESCO will also conduct risk assessments on products and strategies, and generate knowledge on their socio-economic benefits.

BIPESCO has the support of seven industry partners (Sentomol, Lisk & Jones, UPM, Maelor Nurseries, Neem Biotech, Fargro and Greenerpol), representing the supply chain. The support (worth £328,591) includes resources (e.g. materials, trial sites, labour) and advice, giving added value to the project.

BIPESCO's outputs (indicated in specific aims, above) will have considerable academic and commercial impact. They will benefit forestry, commercial nurseries, and local authorities (urban landscapes), and will lead to strong and on-going collaborations with pest control and related companies. The outputs will provide solutions to control of potential invasive pests such as ALB, in accord with the LWEC call. This project will provide products and strategies for a large and expanding pest control market currently worth $49 billion, but expected to reach $59 billion by 2016.

Technical Summary

BIPESCO aims to develop novel and environmentally friendly pest control products and strategies to improve the management of native and non-native (invasive) pest insects.

The main objectives are to:
1. Build on previous work demonstrating effective control with EPF (M.anisopliae and B.bassiana) and establish the best strains of these two species against four target pest species: Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), pine processionary moth (PPM), pine weevil (PW]) and black vine weevil (BVW).
2. Use these EPF and a range of plant-derived botanicals to kill specific target pests both alone and in combination to determine effective synergies
3. Develop the role of these BCA in co-ordinated management strategies to reduce impacts of pest species by 'lure and kill' and 'stress and kill' approaches
4. Develop portable, cost-effective equipment for improved detection of target pests
5. Demonstrate applied field-based control of known pest species
6. Reduce the reliance on insecticides in pest control.

The main methods to be adopted are:
1. Field work and laboratory based quarantine screening of BCA will be used to determine virulence and stability against ALB, PPM, PW and BVW, and to elucidate why insects are more susceptible to infection.
2. Field trials will be established to test the two most promising strains against two native model insects in forest (PW) and nursery environments (BVW)
3. The efficacy of current monitoring traps will be enhanced using botanical attractants which will also concentrate populations for increased EPF infection
4. New prototype traps will be developed to improve trapping rates and thereby local pest monitoring and population control in collaboration with industry partners.
5. Field site management will also be used to manipulate and concentrate insect pest populations to enable improved local targeting with BCAs thereby also increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

Planned Impact

Pest Control Of Insect Pests That Threaten Trees And Human Health (BIPESCO)
BIPESCO will develop entomopathogenic fungi and botanicals to control existing and emergent insect pests that are a problem in forests and tree nurseries, and those which are a threat to human health and the environment. Botanicals with attractant or repellent properties will be used alone or with fungi in novel "lure and kill" and "stress and kill" pest control strategies. In addition, BIPESCO will increase understanding of the underlying mechanisms for increased susceptibility of stressed insects to fungal infection and will influence future control strategies, in part because the agents can be used at reduced application rates and cost. The products and strategies developed within the project will offer an environmentally friendly, sustainable method of pest control in the short, medium and long term, benefiting many sectors both directly and indirectly.

Beneficiaries will include researchers, industry (biopesticide producers and users), government agencies, local authorities, public bodies, environmental groups and the general public. The forestry sector will benefit from having benign alternatives to chemicals that are being withdrawn for the control of pine weevil, the most destructive pest in conifer forests. Nurseries and the horticultural sector will benefit in having efficacious products and strategies for control of black vine weevil larvae in nursery stock. Pine processionary moth (PPM) and Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) pose major threats to UK pine and hardwoods, respectively. Benign control products and strategies for these pests would benefit countries where they are endemic but, should they enter the UK, as recently with ALB, could play a major role in their eradication. Effective control of PPM will benefit the forestry sector from economic losses and also forest users (workers and tourists) at risk from urticating hairs released by the larvae and harmful to human health. ALB has a wide host range and, if unchecked, would have a profound impact on urban landscapes (e.g. horsechestnut, cherry, plane, elm, poplar, maple), biofuel crops (e.g. willow), natural and managed woodlands (e.g. ash, beech, birch, alder) which, in turn, would impact on the wildlife in those ecosystems. Botanicals offer a relatively inexpensive method of killing pests inside galleries so could be used to treat suspect infested wood.

BIPESCO will add to the diminishing arsenal of products for pest control and enable growers to comply with EU legislation (EC Regulation 1107/2009 & Directive 2009/128/EC) that oblige member states to implement principles of integrated pest management (IPM) with priority to be given to benign, non-chemical methods of pest control. BIPESCO products and IPM strategies address this legislation and will increase the competitiveness of UK enterprises in strategic areas of pest control. BIPESCO products are safer than conventional pesticides and will protect and benefit the general public and wildlife. Other benefits to stakeholders include: helping foresters comply with Forest Stewardship Council's certification scheme, creating wealth and jobs in important bioscience sectors (knowledge based economy), and ensuring sustained collaboration between the industry and non-industry partners. Other companies in the supply chain (non-participants) will also benefit (e.g. producers of botanicals, biodegradable polymers for controlled release of attractants/repellents). BIPESCO focuses on pests which are of major socio-economic importance. The outputs will benefit the UK and many significant overseas markets through the development by the project consortium of fungal and botanical based products, focussing on the gap in the market for safe alternatives. These products will also create the opportunity to target several market sectors (multiple income streams) reflected by several companies and government agencies participating in the project.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Strains of an insect pathogenic fungus, Metarhizium brunneum (anisopliae) have been identified by the consortium (Swansea University, Forest Research & Fera) that are highly pathogenic to at least two of the target pest insect species. One of the strains (V275) is the same as the commercial product Met52, which is already distributed in the UK by Fargro Ltd for other purposes . Hence, new potential markets identified which should lead to increased sales.

Semiochemicals (attractants/repellents) have been identified which could be used to improve pest monitoring or manipulate their behaviour of target pests to improve control.

Specifically,
1. Metarhizium strains (Entomopathogenic fungus, EPF) have been shown to be pathogenic to specified target insects, specifically larval and pupal stages of pine processionary moth (PPM) and adult and larval stages of black vine weevil (BVW) and pine weevil (PW). They were not able to be tested against Asian Longhorn beetle for logistical and practical reasons (insect supply and quarantine issues), although limited assays using another EPF, Beauveria bassiana have shown that it does kill ALB larvae, but they are not very susceptible and the fungus is extremely slow acting.
2. Synthetic lures, developed in conjunction with commercial partners, show much promise but there is a need to develop better dispensers.
3. New biodegradable dispensers provided by industry partner evaluated.
4. Repellents have been identified for PW adults
5. Some potentially promising semiochemicals (attractants and repellents) have been identified for BVW.
6. Experiments designed to test the hypothesis that 'botanticals' (natural extracts and compunds) which cause stress in insects may enhance the efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi have been conducted, but have not supported the hypothesis. On the contrary, results showed that at least three of the botanicals reduced the growth of the EPFs B. bassiana and Met 52 in vitro, whilst one killed the EPF. When combined stress bioassays were performed (i.e. using an EPF in conjunction with a botanical), it was determined that none of the botanicals increased the efficacy of the fungus (i.e. none of the botanicals acted synergistically with it), instead one of them reduced the efficacy of both fungi in vivo (i.e. the opposite of what was desired).
7. Several of the 'stress proteins' and 'stess genes' involved in EPF attack against a model insect have been identified, or are in the process of being identified, as part of the objective to understand better the insects' defence mechanisms against fungal attack. A better understanding will help to develop new or improved pest control agents.
8. The mechanism by which a selected botanical reduces fungal efficacy was investigated. Results indicated that the botanical does not appear to induce a stress response in the target insect (as would be indicated by upregulation of certain stress proteins). Instead, the botanical possess antimicrobial activity that inhibits fungal growth.
9. Risk assessment studies carried out against non-target insects (predatory ground beetles; Carabidae) have shown that these are more susceptible to the EPF (Met52) than the target PW under defined laboratory conditions, but the design of FR's surface trap for PW reduces non-target captures to the extent that there is a greatly reduced overall risk to the predatory beetle population using EPF deployed by such a strategy.
Exploitation Route 1. Entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) strains could be used to control different developmental stages of the pine processionary moth (PPM), either in conjunction with other control strategies (i.e. nest removal), or as a separate control strategy.
2. Botanicals (plant extacts) could also be used to kill PPM larvae inside nests, and this could potential be extended to help control the Oak Processionary Moth.
3. Attractants could be used to enhance mass trapping of pine weevil adults and/or to lure the pest to a control agent (chemical or biological).
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

 
Description Discussions with Defra tree health policy team
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
 
Description Forest Research (Project Partner) 
Organisation Forest Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Scientific discussions and development of joint project proposal. Identification of non-target insects from Pine Weevil (PW) traps. Efficacy testing of EPF against PW under controlled laboratory conditions.
Collaborator Contribution Scientific discussions and development of joint project proposal. Provision of non-target insects & overall catch results from PW traps in field trials. Supply of adult PW for laboratory efficacy studies.
Impact Grant award to Forest Research - BB/L012146/1 Grant award to Fera - BB/L011891/1
Start Year 2013
 
Description Swansea University (Project Partner - Lead Organisation) 
Organisation Swansea University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific discussions and dvelopment of the joint project proposal. Provision of expertise in testing efficacy of entompathogenic fungi against target and non-target pest insect species in vivo, including the quarantine pest Asian Longhorn beetle. Expertise in identifying potential synergy (or interference) between selected botanicals and entomopathogenic fungi. Expertise in investigating the biochemical and molecular mechanisms of the 'stress' responses induced by EPF infection in an insect, and the effects of botanicals on these responses.
Collaborator Contribution Scientific discussions and dvelopment of the joint project proposal. Provision of some EPF strains.
Impact Grant award to Swansea University - BB/L012472/1 Grant award to Fera - BB/L011891/1
Start Year 2013
 
Description International Symposium on Biopesticides, Swansea, Sept 7-9, 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The meeting focussed on the advances made in the development of biopesticides for insect pest control. In addition to formal scientific presentations, there were 22 stands displaying products, strategies & stakeholders, 40 posters, an organised networking session and workshops. There was excellent industry support, with approximately 60 businesses in attendance. [Summarised from response provided by Project Lead, Swansea University as already provided to ResearchFish]. Fera Science had two delegates in attendance, and provided a poster summarising project aims and techniques.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015