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Co-encapsulation of bacteria and fungi as biopesticides for dual pest and disease control

Principle supervisor: Professor Zhibing Zhang, School of Chemical Engineering

Secondary supervisor: Dr Tim Overton

Project title: Co-encapsulation of bacteria and fungi as biopesticides for dual pest and disease control

Project description:

It is estimated that combined crop pests and diseases, both foliar- and soil-borne, cause $470bn (=£361.7bn) damage to food and land security worldwide annually. Crop losses due to pests and diseases have steadily increased to 50% from 45% over the past four decades, despite over 600,000 tonnes of synthetic insecticide being applied globally per annum.

The microbial biocontrol agents such as fungi and bacteria that kill insect pests and microbes that cause plant disease are natural biological control agents and have been commercialised to control various pests and diseases in horticultural, turf amenity and forestry sectors (Damalas, et al., 2018; Kohl et al., 2019). They are generally applied to the soil or foliar spray in aqueous or solid suspension by means of conventional crop protection equipment. However, environmental extremities such as prolonged low temperatures or insufficient moisture challenge their effectiveness, meaning that they have a shorter useful life. We aim to develop a new delivery system via co-encapsulation of fungi and bacteria using biodegradable, biocompatible and environmentally friendly materials, which can achieve dual pest and disease control. The novel dual encapsulated delivery system is a step change towards technological advancement in crop protection for the control of horticulture and turf amenity pests. The specific objectives are:

  1. (To develop a new biocompatible and environmentally friendly delivery system to co- encapsulate a proven fungal Bioinsecticide active M. brunneum BNL102 (under EU registration) combined with bacterium B. subtilis, a fungal disease control;
  2. To investigate the long-term storage stability of the encapsulated micro-organisms at different environmental conditions;
  3. To achieve controlled release of the micro-organisms from the formed microcapsules through spray nozzles via optimisation of their mechanical strength;
  4. To validate the novel dual microbial delivery system through laboratory and semi-field conditions for their efficacy and cost benefits analysis.

The successful outcome of the project would see the impetus in the fundamental understanding of the interactions between fungi and bacteria, between the micro-organisms and their carriers and how their storage stability can be affected by the formulation and processing conditions and how to achieve their controlled release via industrial spray nozzles, potentially leading to a commercial product.

  1. References:
    Damalas, CA and Koutroubas, SD (2018) Current status and recent developments in biopesticide use. Agriculture-Basel 8:13.
  2. Kohl, J; Kolnaar, R and Ravensberg, WJ (2019) Mode of action of microbial biological control agents against plant diseases: relevance beyond efficacy. Frontiers In Plant Science 10: 845.

BBSRC priority area: Sustainable Agriculture and Food: Plant and Crop Science & Animal health and Welfare & Microbial Food Safety

Contact: Professor Zhibing Zhang, University of Birmingham