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Focus on... Biocontrol

Biocontrol is a field that incorporates far more than the introduction of natural enemies to control pests. Classical biological control, as it is known, has been used for centuries, dating back to Chinese citrus growers, who placed nests of predaceous ants (Oncophylla smaradina) in trees for control of leaf-eating insects. Similarly date growers in Yemen used ants from North Africa to control various pests. In more modern times, one of the earliest successes of using natural enemies was with the cottony cushion scale, a pest that was devastating the California citrus industry in the late 1800s.

Biocontrol is now a vital component of integrated pest management and is seen as an effective alternative to chemical pesticides in controlling pests and diseases. Whilst the research and development for biocontrol continues apace the challenge remains at policy level, particularly in developing countries, to have effective legislation in place to ensure that these agents are safe and effective for farmers to use. Predators, parasitoids, plant extracts and pathogens are all used as biocontrol agents against a variety of important pests and diseases and in this edition of New Agriculturist, we focus on recent developments from different regions to provide an example of each these different type of biocontrol agents and their use in the field.

Regulating for safe biocontrol

Regulating for safe biocontrol

Over recent years biocontrol has proved to be a promising alternative to chemical pesticides. Agreement on protocols for testing and using biopesticides has, however, initially delayed their rapid development and more widespread use. Yet encouraging progress has been made in Kenya and most recently in Ghana, in achieving legislation for registration of biocontrol agents.

Date published: January 2006

A sweet solution for sugarcane woolly aphid

A sweet solution for sugarcane woolly aphid

In the sugarcane fields of Maharashtra and Karnataka in India, a serious outbreak of sugarcane woolly aphid (Ceratovacuna lanigera) in 2002 resulted in up to 30 per cent losses in sugar yields. However, collaborative efforts have proved effective in breeding and releasing large numbers of natural enemies.

Date published: January 2006

Finotin: a promising new biopesticide

Finotin: a promising new biopesticide

A plant protein that has broad biocidal properties against insect pests as well as fungal and bacterial pathogens could be the next best thing in crop disease and pest control. The scientists who have extracted what they have named 'finotin' from seeds of the tropical forage legume Clitoria ternatea think that this could become a cheap and easy pest and disease control option for farmers.

Date published: January 2006

Biocontrol in tea

Biocontrol in tea

Scientists are studying various biocontrol methods to control insects and parasitic fungal diseases in tea plants; these antagonistc fungi and bacteria, insects and bio-pesticides are a cheaper alternative to traditional chemicals, and result in higher levels of biodiversity and lower amounts of chemical residues.

Date published: January 2006

Halting the march of African armyworm

Halting the march of African armyworm

A joint project between the Tanzanian government and CABI-Bioscience is developing the use of Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus (NPV), to control African armyworm caterpillars. The work has also involved the development of a community-based forecasting system, so outbreaks can be anticipated and responded to promptly.

Date published: January 2006

 

 

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