Talking Insects in France
IOBC- WPRS Working Group Meeting 2023
‘Integrated Protection in Field Vegetables’
Between 21-23 September 2023, it was a pleasure to attend my first meeting of the IOBC-WPRS (International Organisation for Biological Control) Working Group ‘Integrated Protection in Field Vegetables’ with my PhD supervisor, Professor Rosemary Collier. The latest meeting was hosted in France at Rennes University (Beaulieu). The IOBC was established in 1955, aiming to promote environmentally friendly methods of plant protection against pests and pathogens. There is predominantly an entomological focus of the ‘Integrated Protection in Field Vegetables’ working group, with the holistic aim of promoting the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the production of the high-quality field vegetables crops, ultimately reducing the over-reliance on insecticide-applications for controlling crop pests. Nevertheless, the groups retain expertise on insecticides for the comparison to alternative future pest control measures of IPM systems, such as microbial control, physical barriers, augmentation of natural enemies, and diversified intercropping systems. This was the first in-person meeting for the group since the COVID pandemic, before which Warwick Crop Centre provided the host location for the 2019 meeting.
We started the day of discussions and presentations on the 21 September following a day of travelling. Although we had a relatively painless journey, we still found ourselves running down the platform at Paris Montparnasse in (successful) attempt to reach our scheduled train to Rennes, in addition to discovering that a miscommunication left one of us without an available room upon arrival at the hotel. Nevertheless, this was resolved, and we remained undeterred with a story to tell, ready for the talking insects the following morning. The meeting was attended by members from scientific, advisory, and commercial backgrounds and the presentations and discussions were centred around three major themes: a significant emphasis on the impact of companion/service plants on pests; elucidating insect pest behaviour for development IPM control methods; monitoring and modelling population dynamics of insect pests. The meeting provided an honest and open platform for the various members to discuss the challenges and opportunities regarding the production of high-quality field vegetables without pesticides.
The talks provided valuable insights for my PhD, particularly into some of the experimental approaches undertaken by other groups. Professor Rosemary Collier of the Warwick Crop Centre delivered the first talk, providing an update of IPM research in the UK. I also presented the findings from the first year of my PhD (The Application of Companion Planting for the Management of Garden Vegetable Pests) at the meeting and receive the insight and feedback from other members. However, it was fascinating and inspiring to absorb the work and different experimental processes undertaken by Anne Marie Cortesero’s group at the ‘Institut de Génétique, Environnement et Protection des Plantes’ of INRAE (Centre Bretagne-Normandie), University of Rennes, highlighting the potential use of companion, or ‘service’, plants for the control of the generalist peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae, on sugar beets. Further insight into ‘Integrated Insect Management’ was provided by Hilfred Huiting of the Wageningen University. There was a strong theme on companion planting pervading through the meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed networking with Anna Köneke, of the Julius Kühn Institute, following her talk on investigating aphid-infested banker plants for enhancing parasitism of aphid pests on white cabbage. The day was concluded with a general discussion followed by a fantastic dinner in the L’AOC restaurant in Rennes, which we attended despite my inability to navigate even with the assistance of Google maps. Despite continuing to get us lost around Rennes, one of my unplanned deviations provided Rosemary with an opportunity to photograph some extremely cheery model sunflowers in a shop window!
Following a day of discussions and presentations, we undertook a field excursion to the Mont-Saint-Michel polders, preceded by a presentation covering the vegetable production sector in Normandy and SILEBAN experimentation stations. The presentation also provided an overview some of the challenges and threats to vegetable plant health in Normandy. Following this, we visited a grower on a polder farm, whilst looking fantastic in plastic overshoes to prevent the muddying of the hire vans. It was fantastic to exchange with the grower by the carrot fields, and as resilient entomologists, we were not even deterred by the abundant, and biting, mosquitoes! Then, moving on from carrots in the field, we were fortunate to have access to see carrots in the vegetable packing station of the AGRIAL Cooperative. The day was concluded with a guided tour of the village and abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel before some free time to enjoy the site nestled between Normandy and Brittany.
On the morning of departure, we visited the Brittany-Normandy INRAE centre, with the opportunity to see the site, facilities and research focussed on the development of production systems resilient to insect pests. During this visit, a few good shots were taken of stink bugs, a reminder of an earlier talk by Anna Moyes, describing the pest status and distribution of Nezara viridula in Austria. Furthermore, we were excited to see the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) populating some aubergine plants in the INRAE experimental garden, safe in the knowledge that this destructive pest of solanaceous crops is currently not endemic to the UK.
The meeting in Rennes was excellent, and it was fantastic to be invited and participate in the program at this early stage in my PhD. It provided a great opportunity to network with colleagues and to meet new friends. Most importantly, it provided a platform to communicate our topics and research to the other members and this was extremely valuable. Great appreciation goes to Anne-Marie Cortesero and Vincent Faloya for their hospitality as local organisers, alongside Ute Vogler and Hilfred Huiting for coordinating the group.