New biological pest control of insects that threaten tree health

5th Jun 2014

Fera is part of a new project (BIPESCO), funded under the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative, which will develop entomopathic fungi (EPF) and botanicals to control insect pests that are a major problem in forestry and tree nurseries, and an emergent threat to trees and human health. Botanicals (essential oils, extracts or plant derivatives) with attractant or repellent properties will be used alone or with EPF in novel pest control strategies.

EPFs are considered natural mortality agents and environmentally safe, and there is worldwide interest in their use and manipulation for biological control of insects and other arthropod pests. Attractant compounds will also be used to improve pest monitoring and deployed in mass trapping programmes. The project is a collaboration between University of Swansea, Fera and Forest Research (Northern Research Station, Roslin, Midlothian).

Pest control is still heavily dependent upon the use of chemical insecticides, but pressure is increasing to develop environmentally friendly products and strategies. Key drivers include the EC-wide withdrawal of 67% of pesticides, public concerns regarding the risks posed by chemical pesticides to human health and the environment, increasing incidence of resistance developing in pest populations, and EU legislation.

Fera scientists will be contributing expertise in insect physiology (including insect immunology, biochemistry, proteomics, molecular biology, insect culturing and bio-assays), and the preparation and utilization of insect pathogens. Fera also has state-of-the-art insect quarantine facilities and a strong record in the development of more benign, sustainable and novel strategies for insect pest control based on disruption of essential physiological processes within the target pests.

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