Project: Optimizing Baculovirus Production and Application for Cutworm Control

There is an increasing demand by consumers and the policy for environmental friendly agricultural practices and a sustainable use of pesticides (e.g. Directive 2009/128/EEC). As a consequence, the integration of biological control agents in both integrated and organic agriculture is an important key to fulfill these requirements. Baculovirus (BV) based biocontrol agents of Lepidopteran pest insects are highly efficient and the most selective insecticides presently on the market. They become even more important due to an increasing development of resistance against chemicals, more rigorous residue regulations and the banning of several chemical pesticides. _x000D__x000D_More than 20 different BV products targeting different pest insect species are commercially available and widely used in Europe and many other countries worldwide. Around 80% of these BV biocontrol agents are applied in integrated farming and 20% in organic agriculture. However, another 700 BVs are described in the literature but they are not yet used for pest control. For producing a competitive and cost-effective baculovirus product, a very specific knowledge of the virus, its host and the virus-host interaction are required. So far, the most efficient production of BVs is production in vivo, i.e. the rearing on the host insect. Hence, key factors for the development of a baculovirus product are highly virulent and productive virus isolates produced using cost-effective insect mass rearing methods. This needs professional expertise on the biology and rearing of the insect host, as well as effective virus isolates that are identified and characterized by molecular methods and are legally authorized for commercialization. Furthermore, the production process including the scaling up and the application strategies have to be developed._x000D__x000D_Cutworm species, such as Agrotis ispilon (black cut worm) and A. segetum (common cutworm) [Lepidoptera] are important agricultural pests in many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Both species are wasteful, polyphagous feeders occurring on many crops, e.g. corn, potatoes, onions, cabbage etc. So far, chemical pesticides are COly used to control these highly devastating pests. Recently, four different BVs, termed AgseNPV-A, AgseNPV-B, AgipNPV and AgseGV, have been demonstrated to infect both larvae of A. segetum and A. ipsilon. They offer a huge, untapped potential to be developed and commercialized as a biological control agent. Although there is an evident demand for Agrotis specific BV products on the market, the stage of development is as yet insufficient and makes it impossible for an SME to develop an Agrotis specific BV product with its own resources. _x000D__x000D_It is the aim of this project to develop key methodologies necessary to select the most appropriate Agrotis-specific BV to be developed and registered as a control agent of different Agrotis species. These R&D activities include_x000D_1) Optimization of small and large-scale rearing of Agrotis species._x000D_2) Developing standardized bioassay methods to determine and monitor the biological activity of Agrotis-specific BVs. _x000D_3) Comparing the biological activities of different Agrotis BVs and selecting the most virulent isolate for A. segetum and A. ipsilon._x000D_4) Characterizing the biological and molecular parameters of Agrotis BV by determining the median lethal concentration (LC50) and median lethal time (LT50) for different isolates of Agrotis BV, performing DNA restriction analysis and genome sequencing of Agrotis BV isolates. _x000D_5) Testing the stability of the virus genomes during virus propagation in vivo (host larvae) and in vitro (cell culture). _x000D_6. Testing the productivity of host species and cell culture systems for different Agrotis BV isolates. _x000D_7. Selecting a virus isolate for large-scale production_x000D_8. Producing a test formulation and testing it in the field._x000D__x000D_These R&D activities will result in technologies necessary for the production and registration of an Agrotis-specific BV product that is targeted against different cutworms species, with the final aim to produce a BV based biocontrol product against cutworms. _x000D__x000D_This aim will be achieved by a strong R&D Pship of Andermatt Biocontrol (ABC) and the Institute for Biological Control of the Julius Kühn-Institute (JKI). ABC has been producing BV products since 1988. ABC is one of the leading and most innovative BV producers. It has already commercialized six different BV products, with registrations and marketing in many countries worldwide. Its market share could be essentially extended by the expansion of the product range with a new seminal and innovative BV product. JKI has an outstanding record in the research of BV. Its research significantly contributed to the registration and implementation of the first BV product in Germany in the 1990s. Since then, it was involved in the characterization and testing of many BVs, including those specific for Agrotis cutworms._x000D_

Acronym BIOCUTBAC (Reference Number: 7129)
Duration 01/07/2012 - 31/12/2015
Project Topic A novel and effective biological control of cutworms, serious insect pests of agricultural crops, will be developed on the basis of highly selective baculoviruses. This will be achieved by molecular selection of virus strains, optimization of the production system and field testing.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 7

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
2 Andermatt Biocontrol AG Coordinator Switzerland
2 Institute for Biological Control, Federal Research Cente for Cultivated Plants (JKI) Partner Germany