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Safj Sa Fruit Journal Hortgro Biocontrol Summary Featured
December 2023 / January 2024

Biocontrol research update

SA Fruit Journal: December 2023 / January 2024

Summaries of the most recent results of Hortgro-funded research on entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes.

Traditional chemical control of insect pests is under pressure. Market requirements are becoming more stringent while the pests themselves are evolving resistance.

Biological alternatives promise to expand the control toolbox with environmentally friendly options.

In recent years, Hortgro has funded several projects on biocontrol of key pests of South African deciduous-fruit orchards. The work was done mainly by postgraduate students and their supervisors in the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology at Stellenbosch University.

Projects focused on local entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes. Entomopathogens are organisms that cause disease and death in insects. Using local entomopathogens can avoid risks associated with introducing exotic species or strains. Local entomopathogens are also likely to be better adapted to South African conditions.

The summaries below represent the most recent results of these projects. Most of the information is based on articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Screening potential entomopathogens against insect pests is essential in developing biocontrol agents. The first two summaries describe the discovery of nematodes and fungi that can kill woolly apple aphids and mealy bugs.

The researchers also assessed whether combining entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi enhanced mealy-bug control. This work is described in the third summary.

Results of biocontrol studies in weevils and false codling moths are presented in summaries four and five.

Finding entomopathogens is only the start – their mass production and practical application must also be investigated. The sixth summary shares results on the mass culture of entomopathogenic fungi, and the seventh shows that mealy-bug control can be achieved with mass-produced fungal spores.

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