IPM Voice Newsletter                                                                                                           March 2016

European Union-Funded BIOCOMES Provides Unique Research-Market Partnership Model
In Europe, a government-funded research and development project is providing a unique public-private partnership model for discovering new biological pest solutions. The European Union's BIOCOMES project is a melding of private industry and public research targeting development of 11 new biological control agents (BCAs) for use in open field crops and forests. 
 
BIOCOMES, financed through 2017, aims to develop biologicals to control priority pests including gypsy moth, pine weevil, tomato pinworm, white flies and aphids of fruit tree crops. The project partners bring a wealth of diversity and knowledge to the table. "The strength of BIOCOMES lies in bringing together parties that were until now not per se used to work[ing] together," said the coordinator of BIOCOMES, Dr. Jürgen Köhl of Wageningen UR, in HortiDaily. "Apart from various parties from the industry, the BIOCOMES consortium also includes research organizations and experimental stations, and these are all originating from different European cultures. This of course results in the necessary challenges in the field of communication and coordination. But [...] we are in fact experiencing the close cooperation between companies and research organizations to be very valuable. And in this way we are bringing together all specific expertise required for the development of biocontrol agents."
 
The European Union mandates Integrated Pest Management in its member states, as a part of its parliamentary directive of 2009, 128/EC:
 
Implementation of the principles of integrated pest management is obligatory [...]. Member States should describe in their National Action Plan how they ensure the implementation of the principles of integrated pest management, with priority given wherever possible to non-chemical methods of plant protection and pest and crop management.
 
Continent-wide efforts have been launched to meet this mandate and connect disparate IPM efforts in member states, including the Coordinated Integrated Pest Management (CIPM) project, financed by the European Research Area Network (ERA-NET).
 
Unlike in the US, where expedited EPA review of biopesticides is available, biological controls face a regulatory barrier in Europe. Victor Perdix, CEO Of Spain-based company and BIOCOMES consortium member Opennatur, puts it well in an interview for BIOCOMES: "The consumers demand more and more biological products. The knowledge is also available. What we need is acknowledgement by the European legislators that biological products, such as pheromones, are a different category of pesticides compared to the traditional synthetic products. That difference calls for different laws too. It makes no sense that biological products have to fulfill the same legal requirements like mass produced synthetic agents. The companies and institutions within BIOCOMES can strengthen each other in that lobby too."
 
The biological pest control market is predicted to continue to grow in the US and worldwide at a greater rate than the market for conventional pesticides. BIOCOMES provides an intriguing model of private-public partnership to bring about effective new low-risk products for growers. For more, please visit biocomes.eu.
New Spider-Venom-Based Biopesticides Now Available, Safe to Mammals and Honeybees
A new biopesticide made from a component of arachnid venom has hit the market and is now classified as bee-safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In December 2015, EPA removed the bee toxicity label from "SPEAR-T," a biopesticide developed by the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Vestaron Corporation. SPEAR-T is labeled for control of whiteflies and thrips in multiple crops.
 
SPEAR-T and Vestaron Corporation were inspired by the work of Glenn King, a Brisbane, Australia-based protein chemist who has focused on studying unique chemical peptides -- very small proteins -- in spider venom. He was able to isolate and characterize a peptide from the venom of the Australian funnel web spider Hadronyche versuta that can be used with a fusion protein to disrupt the calcium channels in the nerve cells of certain insects. This mode of action does not work on mammals, and research has already shown that this toxin delivery method does not cause significant mortality to bees at high doses, and has no effect on bees' learning or memory.
 
Vestaron CEO Dr. John Sorenson reports that it's unknown why SPEAR-T doesn't affect honeybees. SPEAR-T works on thrips, whiteflies and caterpillars, but it's not effective against mites or the order Hymenoptera in general, of which bees are a member. SPEAR-T uses two modes of action: blocking the passage of ions into insects' cells and disrupting calcium and potassium channels. Sorenson indicates that dual-action SPEAR-T used as part of an IPM program may make it more challenging for insects to develop resistance. To read more about SPEAR-T and Vestaron Corporation's efforts to develop targeted biopesticides, visit Greenhouse Management.
New Fungal Biocontrol Attacks Wireworms in Potatoes, Helps Farmers Hamstrung by EU Moratorium
The German company BIOCARE, a member of the European INBIOSOIL project, has provided potato farmers in Europe with a new entomopathogenic fungus product called ATRACAP that attracts and kills wireworms. The fungus occurs naturally in arable soils worldwide, and does not impact earthworms.
 
European potato farmers have been affected by the European Union moratorium on neonicotinoid insecticides. Wireworms are a priority problem for organic and conventional potato and other farmers worldwide, and monitoring and threshold systems are outdated and time-consuming.
 
INBIOSOIL, similar to BIOCOMES, is a European Union-funded project aimed at developing biological control agents using entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes. ATRACAP was developed as a result of a project targeting corn rootworm and is one of several projects targeting soilborne pests. For more, visit Phys.org.

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