A team of researchers led
by Cardiff University has identified bacteria which could provide an effective
and safe biopesticide.
The Burkholderia group of
bacteria is known to protect crops against a number of diseases, but studies
linking them to serious lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis (CF) in
the 1990s led to them being withdrawn from the market. By sequencing the
genomic DNA of the bacteria, the team was able to identify Burkholderia’s
antibiotic-making gene, Cepacin, and further testing demonstrated that Cepacin
offers highly effective protection against damping off in plants.
Using genetic engineering
techniques similar to those used to produce live vaccines, the researchers are
also exploring how to improve the safety of the bacteria. “Burkholderia split
their genomic DNA across 3 fragments, called replicons,” explained Professor
Mahenthiralingam, lead researcher on the project. “We removed the smallest of
these 3 replicons to create a mutant Burkholderia strain which, when tested on
germinating peas, still demonstrated excellent biopesticidal properties.”
Work with mice suggests that this mutant strain does not persist in the lungs, and the project, which also involved the Universities of Warwick and Liverpool, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has now been awarded more than £1 million from BBSRC to help progress the next stage of research to develop an effective and safe biopesticide that does not build up to harmful levels in the environment.
Photo Caption: The
modified bacteria was shown to be effective against damping off in peas
The new EU-funded project
Greenresilient aims to study the ways in which pests and diseases are often
suppressed by various naturally-occurring enemies and antagonists which can be
found in cropping systems.
Within the project,
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is focussing on the role of
beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Several strains of entomopathogenic
fungi have already been isolated from five organic greenhouses across Europe,
which have shown the potential to increases the resilience of plants to
above-ground pests by acting as endophytes that induce plant resistance and/or
produce toxic metabolites.
As part of the work, WUR
will evaluate the isolated entomopathogens as endophytes in tomato plants to
assess their effects on tobacco whiteflies, Bemisia tabaciand the South American tomato
absoluta. The aim is to better understand the role of these fungi
in aboveground pest suppression and to find ways to enhance the presence and
impact of these beneficial fungi.
The same soils will also be
analysed by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who will focus on
the interaction between soil microbial communities and suppression of
Photo Caption: A fly
infected by entomopathogenic fungus
Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Alejandro Santillana / University of Texas at Austin
Kevin Price, head of Corporate
Marketing and Communications at Certis Europe, has used the New Year to set out
some of the challenges and trends that the company foresees in global food
He said that the crop
protection company needed to understand the complex challenges facing ‘the
long-term future of food production.’ Certis has been working with Forum for
the Future to address these issues and inform its long-term strategies, and
this has resulted in a project that has helped Certis understand how its future
context may change.
“It seems likely that the
size of the market for conventional crop protection products will reduce
substantially,” said Kevin. “This will be due not only to regulatory
developments but also to advances in precision agriculture and the increasing
use of biological solutions alongside chemical solutions. We shall probably see
a shift towards prevention rather than cure and a significant shift towards
highly-targeted precision application where appropriately adapted formulations
and alternative technologies replace spraying to a great extent. With such
relatively dramatic changes in the tools available to growers, we anticipate a
need for greater service support alongside the products.”
He also indicated a belief
that high-tech physical crop protection, such as mechanical weeding carried out
by drones and autonomous robots, will become mainstream. “It is clear that farm
data is growing in importance in terms of the development of technologies and
the provision of crop protection solutions. Farmers will have information at
their fingertips from the technology involved in every aspect of the farming
operation so that they know exactly when, where and how to target pests and
diseases before they take hold. The application of chemicals will be highly
targeted and thus quantities used will be vastly reduced.”
Case New Holland group has
signed a deal with German weed technology company Zasso to bring a new XPower
digital weeding technology to market.
The new system enables
non-selective burn-down applications such as field preparation, potato haulm
desiccation, and special treatments for wine grapes and trees. It has been
awarded with a Bronze Medal ahead of the SIMA 2019 machinery show in Paris next
XPower will be marketed as
part of a suite of new Case IH precision farming technologies under the brand
name AGXTEND. According to the manufacturers, digital herbicide technology is
at least as efficient as chemical herbicides in terms of controlling weeds, and
is more efficient, economic, practical and crop-safe than mechanical weeding,
in addition to which it does not disturb the soil nor encourage further weed
The system is said to be as
effective on larger weeds as smaller ones, and more practical, safer and
cheaper than existing scorching or burning systems used for total weed control.
“The partnership with Zasso
and its XPower solution is the next logical step after the Europe-wide RTK
network and the GNSS Guidance and Machine Control options. Zasso and CNHi have
both developed their environmental protection focus over the past year and this
partnership is just the beginning for more,” said Maximilian Birle, Head of
Product Management at CNHi.
Zasso’s CEO Dirk Vandenhirtz
added, “It is a much welcomed and natural step for Zasso to partner with an
equipment manufacturer. CNHi provides us with an unparalleled depth of
distribution across Europe, to expand our solution. We are particularly excited
to have been selected as one of the innovative technologies available through
The European Union (EU) has
renewed the approval of the plant growth regulator maleic hydrazide (MH), but
industry experts warn that growers will have to take into account new
regulatory requirements which will apply to all products containing MH.
According to new EU
regulations, MH products are now required to contain lower levels of hydrazine
to meet tightening restrictions on metabolites. Most significantly, under EU
regulation (2017/1506) crops treated using MH products can no longer be fed to
livestock. In the UK, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) has confirmed
that all crop protection products containing MH must now carry on the label the
phrase ‘Do not feed to livestock’.
These restrictions apply to
all MH products from the authorisation holders from 1 November 2018. However,
MH products placed on the market before 1 November 2018 which do not comply
with the new requirement (i.e. existing labelled stock) have been allowed a
grace period of six months for sale, and a further 12 months for use.
CRD has also requested that
authorization holders and industry partners develop and implement a stewardship
program to ensure compliance with the restriction and the continued safe use of
MH so that product registrations can be maintained.
It has emerged that European countries are divided about the continued approval of copper products for crop protection, after its last extension in January.
Negotiations on the
compounds are ongoing with reports suggesting the European Commission will put
new proposals to member states later this month. However, despite being “of
particular concern to public health or the environment,” according to the
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and being candidates for substitution,
materials such as copper sulphate are still widely used by organic farmers who
say they have now suitable alternatives.
“Considering the information
available in the framework of the confirmatory data, the risk assessment
remains unchanged, and therefore the new information provided does not change
the overall conclusion drawn during the renewal assessment of copper
compounds,” EFSA said recently. There is particular concern about the effects
on vineyard workers in particular.
association Copa Cogeca told journalists, “At this stage, we do not have
concrete and robust solutions, leaving producers in a truly uncomfortable
situation. We would suggest appropriate risk mitigation measures, as considered
by the Commission. These could be considered as a transition, allowing for the
management of all risks while leaving farmers with time to find adequate
Hopes for a new family of agricultural insecticides with little impact on non-target species, such as bees, may suffer a setback as researchers claim that they could pose similar risks to pollinating insects.
Sulfoximines have been promoted as the next generation of pest control chemicals, with a number of products already gaining approval around the world in countries including China, Canada and Australia. However, research published in the journal Naturesuggests that they could cause non-lethal effects in bees which may have unintended consequences.
One of the scientists behind the paper, Dr Ellouise Leadbeater of Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC: “Our study highlights that stressors that do not directly kill bees can still have damaging effects further down the line, because the health of the colony depends on the health of its workforce.”
Friends of the Earth pesticide campaigner Sandara Bell commented, “This study shows that replacing one harmful pesticide with another is not the solution to protecting our crops.” However, the NFU said that it was vital that farmers and growers had ‘an effective crop protection toolbox available to combat pests and allow them to produce food for the public.’
Growers have had the chance to assess the latest set of field trials forming part of AHDB Horticulture’s SCEPTREplus trials, this time looking at the control of lettuce root aphid.
The aim of the trial is to determine the efficacy of novel treatments for the control of the pest on lettuce. According the AHDB, “In recent years lettuce root aphids have been managed effectively by the neonicotinoid seed treatments used to control aphids on the foliage. The impending loss of neonicotinoids will increase the risk of lettuce root aphid infestations.”
The trial, which consists of 12 treatments including the insecticide-free control and the commercial standard of Cruiser seed treatment, was visited by growers on 8 August. The experimental products have been applied as spray, drench or phytodrip treatments across two sequential plantings which have been timed to target the migration of lettuce root aphids from overwintering sites on poplar.
Global ag. chem. company Syngenta has announced the global launch of a new SDHI-based fungicide seed treatment, with a view to getting the first approvals in international markets next year.
SALTRO™, which contains the novel active ingredient ADEPIDYN™, will initially be marked for the control of blackleg in canola (oilseed rape); Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in soybeans and Bakanae in rice, but following initial planned registrations in the United States, Canada and Australia, use of the chemical could be expanded to other crops and diseases.
Ioana Tudor, Global Head of Syngenta Seedcare, said, “We are excited to be adding SALTRO™ to our broad seed treatment portfolio. It will offer growers even more choices to control early seedling diseases to an unmatched level, by ensuring stand uniformity with strong and healthy plant growth right from the start.”
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has upheld the EU’s almost total ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides after legal action was brought by agrochemical giants Bayer and Syngenta.
The ECJ ruling said the EU had correctly applied its “precautionary principle”, which allows restrictions on chemicals even when conclusive evidence of harm is lacking.
Both Bayer and Syngenta said they were disappointed by the decision, as did the UK’s Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC). AIC said it supported the action brought by Bayer Crop Science and Syngenta as it ‘firmly believes in an approval system that is based on scientific evidence, independent review and an assessment of impacts, rather than politics’.
Hazel Doonan, head of AIC’s crop protection sector added: “Effective modern crop protection products are an essential part of meeting UK Government’s drive to raise productivity whilst enhancing the environment. If innovation is to take place, it relies on those involved in discovering and bringing new technology to the market, to have a clear regulatory framework within which to operate.”
In a separate ruling, the ECJ backed chemicals giant BASF in its complaint against restrictions on fipronil. The court said the European Commission had failed to do an impact assessment on fipronil, and that this “breached the precautionary principle.”