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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment...

Biological control of western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera

Country: Hungary

Start: 01/04/2005

End: 31/03/2008

So what's the problem?

The chrysomelid beetle Diabrotica virgifera virgifera (western corn rootworm) is one of the most destructive pests of maize in North America. Over recent years, it has moved into Europe causing major problems in maize. Most yield loss attributed to this univoltine pest (an organism which has one brood per year) is due to the larvae feeding on maize roots, which ultimately causes plant lodging (bending of the plants). Adults also occasionally inflict yield losses through intensive silk feeding.

What is this project doing?

A project to develop a nematode- and/or fungus-based biological control product for the western corn rootworm was conducted between 2005 and 2008 (financed by the Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI-KTI, Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology, Switzerland (CTI P-No. 7485.1 LSPP-LS), Landi REBA in Basel, Switzerland and e-nema GmbH in Schwentinenthal, Germany).

CABI, in collaboration with Prof Ted Turling’s group at the University of Neuchâtel, Prof Ralf-Udo Ehlers’ group at e-nema GmbH in Schwentinenthal, Regina Burger at LANDI Reba in Basel, Switzerland, Franz Bigler`s group of Agroscope in Reckenholz, Switzerland, and experts from the Plant Health Directorate at Hodmezovasarhely in Hungary were responsible for developing a nematode product against D. v. virgifera larvae.

Three entomopathogenic (insect killing) nematode species tested in laboratory and field experiments in Hungary significantly reduced the number of D. v. virgifera. The species Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and H. megidis were particularly promising in reducing the damage to maize roots, when applied both at the time maize was sown or later in June. Both nematodes survived more than two months in the soil, which was long enough to I  effectively killed all three larval instars (life-stages) and pupae of the pest. Applied using fluid solid stream sprays into soil at sowing, or fluid narrow flat fan sprays applied with lots of water later over small maize plants, the average root damage was reduced by 60–96%.

Results and knowledge generated by this project are currently being taken further by industry partners and another project financed by the LTZ Stuttgart of Germany. With the recent banning of many insecticides for seed coatings due to their toxicity to bees, farmers urgently need an alternative product, such as a biological control product based on nematodes. As a follow-up, CABI is currently acting as an independent consultancy expert for the potential implementation of the biological product in southern Germany.
You may be interested in the following titles:
Vidal, S., Kuhlmann, U. & Edwards, C. R. (2005) Western corn rootworm: ecology and management. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK
Gaugler, R. (2002) Entomopathogenic nematology CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK
Grewal, P. S. Ehlers, R. U. Shapiro-Ilan, D. I. (2005) Nematodes as biocontrol agents.
CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK

Commission for Technology and Innovation, Switzerland

e-nema GmbH, Schwentinenthal, Germany

Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology, Switzerland

Landi REBA, Basel, Switzerland

Agroscope Reckenholz, Switzerland

Cereal Research Station, Szeged, Hungary

e-nema GmbH, Schwentinenthal, Germany

Landi REBA, Basel, Switzerland

Plant Protection and Soil Conservation Directorate, Hodmezovasarhely, Hungary

University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland