- Author: Surendra K. Dara
Biopesticides contain active ingredients of natural or biological origin that include plant extracts, microorganisms, microbial metabolites, organic molecules, minerals, or other such natural materials that have pesticidal properties. Pests such as herbivorous arthropods, pathogens, parasitic nematodes, mollusks, rodents, and weeds cause significant crop damage when they are not managed. Pest suppression is a critical part of crop production to maintain plant health, prevent yield losses, and optimize returns. As agriculture advanced from subsistence farming to a global enterprise, crop protection also evolved over millennia. When farming was less organized, nature maintained a balance and provided solutions initially. Then natural solutions were actively implemented until industrialization led to the use of synthetic inputs in the 20th century. While synthetic fertilizers and pesticides contributed to a tremendous improvement in the yield potential, the indiscriminate use of some of them and the resulting damage to the environment and human health steered food production in the recent past towards organic farming with the use of nature-based solutions.
Although biopesticides have been around for a few decades, the growth of organic farming gave an impetus to the biopesticide industry during the past few years resulting in the development of new active ingredients and improved formulations. Now, biopesticides are considered an important part of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies in both organic and conventional systems. With a considerable industry investment in research and development, the quality and efficacy of biopesticides have also significantly improved. This has also contributed to optimizing the cost of some formulations. However, there is still a need to fill the knowledge gaps in biopesticides and their use. Depending on the active ingredient, the mode of action for biopesticides, their target pests, their storage and handling, and the use strategies are quite diverse, and a thorough understanding of these aspects is critical for their successful use. As emphasized in the new IPM model (Dara, 2019), while biopesticide use is an integral part of crop protection, understanding the pest biology, using biopesticides appropriate for the target life stage of the pest, applying them at the right time and rate using the right technology, avoiding incompatibility issues, building and sharing effective use strategies, and continuously investing in research and outreach are essential elements of biopesticide use. Biopesticides also play an important role in insecticide resistance management (IRM) to address resistance issues associated with synthetic pesticides. This article provides an overview of various biopesticide categories and general strategies for their successful use for IPM and IRM.
Biopesticides can be used for managing arthropod pests, bacterial or fungal pathogens, plant-parasitic nematodes, weeds, and snails and slugs. Some formulations or active ingredients have multiple roles and can be effective against more than one category of pests. While some active ingredients are very specific to a particular pest or related species, others have a broad-spectrum activity. Based on the source, biopesticides can be placed in four broad categories: i) botanicals, ii) microbials, iii) toxins, and iv) minerals and other natural materials.
Botanical extracts: Plants are a rich source of numerous phytochemicals or secondary metabolites that have a wide range of properties including pesticidal activity. Acids, alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, and terpenoids in plant extracts or oils obtained from seeds and other plant parts are some of the compounds present in various biopesticides (Pino et al., 2013). Azadirachtin, BLAD (polypeptide from sweet lupine seeds), citric acid, essential oils, pyrethrins, soybean oil, and extract of the giant knotweed are used for their acaricidal, insecticidal, fungicidal, nematicidal, or herbicidal properties.
Microbials: Some of the microbial pesticides have live microorganisms (such as entomopathogens, Bacillus spp., Streptomyces spp., and Trichoderma spp.) while others (such as Burkholderia rinojensis and Chromobacterium subtsugae)have heat-killed microorganisms and fermentation solids as the active ingredients. Entomopathogenic microorganisms [Bacillus thuringiensis (bacterium), Beauveria bassiana and Cordyceps fumosorosea (fungi), Heterorhabditis spp. and Steinernema spp. (nematodes), and granuloviruses and nucleopolyhedroviruses] primarily kill their hosts through infection; microbe-based fungicides antagonize plant pathogens through competitive displacement and production of toxic metabolites; nematophagous fungi parasitize plant-parasitic nematodes; and plant pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses infect and suppress weeds. Bacteriophages, which are viruses that parasitize bacteria, are used against the plant pathogenic species of Clavibacter, Erwinia, Pseudomonas, Xanthomonas, Xylella, and other genera.
Toxins and other organic molecules: There are multiple examples of toxic organic molecules derived from various organisms. Avermectins from the bacterium Streptomyces avermitilis and spinosad from the bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa, strobulurin from the mushroom Strobuluris tenacellus, and cerevisane from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisae are some of the microbial toxins that are effective against insects, plant-parasitic nematodes, or snails and slugs. A venom peptide from the Blue Mountains funnel-web spider, Hadronyche versuta, from Australia is a recently developed insecticide active ingredient with its unique mode of action class. Chitosan, a polysaccharide from the exoskeleton of shellfish, is a fungicide.
Minerals and other natural materials: Diatomaceous earth, mineral oil, and minerals such as sulfur are used for controlling multiple categories of pests. Potassium salts of fatty acids of plant or animal origin, known as insecticidal soap, have insecticidal and fungicidal properties. Organic acids such as acetic acid and citric acid are derived from plants and have fungicidal and herbicidal properties. Since these are different from other botanical extracts, they are placed in this category.
Except for the microbial pesticides that have live microorganisms, most biopesticides have chemical molecules of microbial, fungal, botanical, or mineral origin and work through various modes of action similar to synthetic pesticides. Several synthetic pesticides are developed from natural molecules. Abamectin, pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, spinetoram, and storbulurins are synthetic analogs based on avermectins, pyrethrins, nicotine, spinosad, and strobulurin, respectively, and were developed for improved stability, safety, or ease of commercial-scale production.
Integrated pest management and resistance management: Biopesticides are very diverse in their origin and mode of action and have been successfully used in several cropping systems for managing a variety of pests. They have complex interactions with plants, soil microbiota, pests, and environmental conditions. It is critical to have a good understanding of the source of biopesticides and how they act on their target pests. Certain biopesticides may have special storage and handling requirements or tank-mixing restrictions. It is essential to refer to the manufacturer's guidelines or label instructions to avoid incompatible tank-mix combinations, understand proper application sequences, and to store, transport, and apply under unfavorable conditions. While it is very important to use biopesticides as a part of the IPM program and tools for IRM, caution is warranted to avoid repeated use of the same or a similar type of biopesticide. Pests can develop resistance to biopesticides just as they do to synthetic pesticides (Dara, 2020).
Strategies for using biopesticides: From the seed or transplant treatment to soil or foliar application, biopesticides can be used throughout crop production. Certain combinations can have an additive or a synergistic effect on pest suppression. At the same time, certain inputs or practices can negatively impact biopesticide efficacy. For example, alkaline tank-mix components breakdown the protein coat of entomopathogenic viruses and Bacillus thuringiensis. Botanical oils can be incompatible with cold water. Some fungicides such as captan and thiram are incompatible with entomopathogenic fungi like Beauveria bassiana while several others are compatible (Dara et al., 2014).
Investing in biopesticides: Environmental safety and resistance development are two major concerns for excessive use of synthetic pesticides and incorporating biopesticides into IPM will help address both issues. Substituting biopesticides for synthetic pesticides will reduce the total amount of the latter during a production season and their potential negative impact on the environment and human health. Several biopesticides are not harmful to pollinators and in some production systems, pollinators are used to deliver biopesticides to the crops they pollinate. Adding biopesticides to the standard crop protection program will also increase pest control efficacy. Additionally, by not continuously using synthetic pesticides, the risk of resistance will be reduced and thus their efficacy will continue to be maintained. Although some biopesticides can be more expensive than synthetic pesticides, investing in them will be a good strategy for both the short-term benefit of effective pest suppression and the long-term benefit of a healthy and resilient ecosystem. Since pests do not have boundaries, area-wide implementation of good agricultural practices with a balanced use of synthetic and natural inputs is necessary for maintaining the productivity of the cropping systems.
Productive collaborations among the pesticide industry, researchers, extension educators, and the grower community are critical for successfully using biopesticides for sustainable food production. While research helps to develop effective formulations and their use strategies, outreach helps with the implementation of those strategies.
Dara, S.S.R., S. S. Dara, A. Sahoo, H. Bellam, and S. K. Dara. 2014. Can entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana be used for pest management when fungicides are used for disease management? UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals. https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=15671
Dara, S. K. 2019. The new integrated pest management paradigm for the modern age. J. Integr. Pest Manag. 10 (1): 12. https://doi.org/10.1093/jipm/pmz010
Dara, S. K. 2020. Arthropod resistance to biopesticides. Organic Farmer 3 (4): 16-19. https://organicfarmermag.com/2020/08/arthropod-resistance-to-biopesticides/
Pino, O. Y. Sánchez, and M. M. Rojas. 2013. Plant secondary metabolites as an alternative in pest management. I: Background, research approaches and trends. Rev. ProtecciónVeg. 28 (2): 81-94.
- Author: Surendra K. Dara
The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) is an important pest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, and other cruciferous crops. It exclusively feeds on cultivated and weedy crucifers and has a worldwide distribution. Larvae feed on foliage and growing parts of young plants or bore into the heads or flower buds resulting in skeletonization of leaves, stunting of the plants, or failure of head formation in some hosts. In warmer areas, the diamondback moth has up to 12 generations per year. While multiple species of parasitoids and predatory arthropods provide some level of natural control, insecticidal applications are a primary means of diamondback moth management. Although several synthetic and biological pesticides are effective against the diamondback moth, resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Ferré et al. 1991), abamectin (Pu et al. 2009), emamectin benzoate, indoxacarb, and spinosad (Zhao et al. 2006), pyrethroids and other pesticides (Leibee and Savage 1992; Endersby et al. 2011) has been well-known from around the world. Excessive use of any kind of pesticide leads to resistance problems (Dara 2020; also see a video presentation) to an individual pesticide or multiple pesticides. Integrated pest management (IPM) strategy encourages the use of various control options both for maintaining pest control efficacy and reducing the risk of resistance development (Dara 2019). Regularly monitoring the pest populations to make treatment decisions, rotating pesticides with different modes of action, exploring the potential of biocontrol agents, and other non-chemical control approaches such as mating disruption with pheromones are some of the IPM strategies for controlling the diamondback moth. While sex pheromones effectively used to manage several lepidopteran pests and are proven to be a critical IPM tool, mating disruption is not fully explored for controlling the diamondback moth. A study was conducted in Brussels sprouts to evaluate the efficacy of a sprayable pheromone against the diamondback moth and to enhance the current IPM strategies.
The study was conducted on a 10-acre Brussels sprouts field in Santa Maria. Cultivar Marte was planted in early July 2020 with expected harvesting in mid to late December. A typical diamondback control program includes monitoring diamondback moth populations with the help of sticky traps and lures and applying various combinations of biological and synthetic pesticides at regular intervals. This study evaluated the efficacy of adding CheckMate DBM-F to the grower standard practice of monitoring the diamondback moth populations with traps and lures and applying pesticides. Treatments included i) grower standard pesticide program (Table 1) and ii) grower standard pesticide program with two applications of 3.1 fl oz of CheckMate DBM-F on 9 August and 11 September. Treatment materials were applied by a tractor-mounted sprayer using a 100 gpa spray volume and necessary buffering agents and surfactants. Each treatment was 5 ac and divided into four quadrants representing four replications. In the middle of each quadrant, one Suterra Wing Trap was set up with a Trécé Pherocon Diamondback Moth Lure. Lures were replaced once a month in early September and early October. Sticky liners of the traps were replaced every week to count the number of moths trapped. Traps were placed on 1, 12, and 24 August, 1, 11, 18, and 27 September, and 6 October and the moth counts were taken from respective traps on 8 and 20 August, 1, 11, 18, and 27 September, 6 and 15 October. CheckMate DBM-F was applied at 3.1 fl oz/ac on 9 August and 11 September. The number of larvae and their feeding damage on a scale of 0 to 4 (where 0=no damage, 1=light damage, 2=moderate damage, 3=high damage, 4=extensive/irrecoverable) were recorded from 25 random plants within each replication on 30 August and 6 and 18 October. Data were subjected to analysis of variance using Statistix software and significant means were separated using Tukey's HSD test. The retail value of various pesticides was also obtained to compare the cost of treatments.
Table 1. Pesticides, buffering agents, and surfactants, their active ingredients, rates/ac (along with the IRAC mode of action groups), and retail pricing for those applied in the grower standard diamondback moth control program.
When CheckMate DBM-F [(Z)-11-Hexadecenal (3) , (Z) - 11 - Hexadecen-1-yl Acetate (1)] was applied the first time on 9 August, Dibrom 8 Emulsive was replaced with Warrior II, the buffering agent Quest was not used, and the surfactant Dyne-Amic was replaced with Induce (dimethylpolysiloxane) to avoid potential compatibility issues. The impact of this substitution is expected to be negligible within the scope of this study. The retail cost of 3.1 fl oz CheckMate DBM-F is $45.60. The cost of lures and traps would be about $4-8 per acre for a six-month crop like Brussels sprouts.
Results and Discussion
Moth populations: Traps in replication 4 in both treatments on 8 August and replication 1 in the grower standard were missing, probably knocked down by a tractor. The day before CheckMate DBM-F was first applied, the mean number of adult diamondback moths caught were 227 in the grower standard and 271 in the plots that would receive the pheromone application. There was a gradual decline in moth counts during the rest of the observation period in both treatments. However, the decline was higher in the plots that received CheckMate DBM-F. The number of moths per trap were about 19% higher in the pheromone-treated plots compared to the grower standard before the study but were nearly 98% lower by the end of the study. The reduction in moth populations from mating disruption was significant on 18 September (P =0.039) and 15 October (P = 0.006).
Larval populations: The mean number of larvae per 25 plants in a replication was zero on all observation dates except for 0.01 on 30 August in the plots that received CheckMate. Four insecticide applications by the time the study was initiated, and the remaining six applications effectively suppressed larval populations.
Damage ratings: Larval feeding damage ratings were consistently low (P < 0.0001) in the plants that did not receive CheckMate DBM-F. The damage was limited to the older leaves at the bottom of the plants and must have been from early feeding before the initiation of the study. The lack of larvae and the evidence of new feeding damage also confirm that the crop remained healthy and pest-free.
Since frequent pesticide applications effectively suppressed larval populations and prevented their feeding damage, the effectiveness of mating disruption in reducing yield losses could not be determined in this study. Since larval counts were not made weekly or between pesticide applications, those that were probably present between the pesticide applications could not be determined. Moths found in the traps probably developed from the larvae in the field or could have been those that flew in from other areas. However, lower moth populations in CheckMate DBM-F treatment demonstrated the overall influence of mating disruption and pest suppression.
It is common to make about 10-12 pesticide sprays during the 6-month crop cycle of Brussels sprouts. The cost of each application varied from about $73 to $192 depending on the materials used with an average cost of about $128 per application in this study. The cost of two CheckMate DBM-F applications is $91. If diamondback moth populations could be reduced with mating disruption, it is estimated that 2-3 pesticide applications could be eliminated. That results in $164 to $292 of saving for the pesticide costs and additional savings in the application costs per acre by investing $91 in the mating disruption. Since the diamondback moth can develop resistance to several chemical and natural pesticides, eliminating some applications as a result of mating disruption also contributes to resistance management along with potential negative impact of pesticides on the environment. Compared to other mating disruption strategies, a sprayable formulation compatible with other agricultural inputs is easier and cost-effective to use.
This study demonstrated that mating disruption with CheckMate DBM-F will significantly enhance the current IPM practices by reducing pest populations, contributing to insecticide resistance management, and reducing pest management costs. Additional studies, with fewer pesticide applications that allow larvae to survive and cause some damage, might further help understand the role of mating disruption where pest populations are not managed as effectively as in this field.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to the PCA and the grower for their research collaboration, Tamas Zold for his technical assistance in data collection, Ingrid Schumann for market research of pesticide pricing, and Suterra for the financial support.
Dara, S. K. 2019. The new integrated pest management paradigm for the modern age. J. Int. Pest Manag. 10: 12.
Dara, S. K. 2020. Arthropod resistance to biopesticides. Organic Farmer 3 (4): 16-19.
Endersby, N. M., K. Viduka, S. W. Baxter, J. Saw, D. G. Heckel, and S. W. McKechnie. 2011. Widespread pyrethroid resistance in Australian diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.), is related to multiple mutations in the para sodium channel gene. Bull. Entomol. Res. 101: 393.
Ferré, J., M. D., Real, J. Van Rie, S. Jansens, and M. Peferoen. 1991. Resistance to the Bacillus thuringiensis bioinsecticide in a field population of Plutella xylostella is due to a change in a midgut membrane receptor. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 88: 5119-5123.
Leibee, G. L. and K. E. Savage. 1992. Evaluation of selected insecticides for control of diamondback moth and cabbage looper in cabbage in Central Florida with observations on insecticide resistance in the diamondback moth. Fla. Entomol. 75: 585-591.
Pu, X., Y. Yang, S. Wu, and Y. Wu. 2009. Characterisation of abamectin resistance in a field-evolved multiresistant population of Plutella xylostella. Pest Manag. Sci. 66: 371-378.
Zhao, J-Z., H. L. Collins, Y-X. Li, R.F.L. Mau, G. D. Thompson, M. Hertlein, J. T. Andaloro, R. Boykin, and A. M. Shelton. 2006. Monitoring of diamondback moth (Lepidoptera: Plutellidae) resistance to spinosad, indoxacarb, and emamectin benzoate. J. Econ. Entomol. 99: 176-181.