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Helping growers get the best from biopesticides

Helping growers get the best from biopesticides

Warwick Crop Centre’s AMBER (Application and Management of Biopesticides for Efficacy and Reliability) research project is looking at practical ways for growers to improve the performance of biopesticide products.

The aim of this work is to have UK growers adopting new practices that have been demonstrated to improve the performance of individual biopesticide products within commercial integrated pest and disease management (IPDM) programmes.

  • We're working to improve biopesticide spray applications.
  • We're investigating how biopesticides affect pest population growth.
  • We're studying biopesticide persistence on crop plants. This will help growers plan their spray programmes better.

We are sharing our knowledge with growers to help make crop protection more effective and sustainable.

Plant pests cause serious problems for growers of horticultural crops. A wide range of damaging organisms affect crop production, including disease-causing microbes (fungi, bacteria, viruses,) arthropods (insects and mites), plant parasitic nematodes, slugs and snails. These pests reduce crop yields and quality, and if they are not controlled properly they result in serious financial losses for growers and inferior produce for customers.

In the past, growers relied heavily on synthetic chemical pesticides for pest control. However, stricter regulations on pesticide safety have resulted in many chemical products being withdrawn from sale, while additional problems have been caused where pest and diseases have evolved resistance to some pesticides. Effective pesticides are now in short supply.

In recent years, new types of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tools called biopesticides have become available for growers. Biopesticides are based on micro-organisms, plant extracts and other natural compounds such as insect alarm pheromones. They pose minimal safety risk, which makes them very attractive in terms of operator safety and crop residue issues. In Europe now, as many biopesticides are being approved for use as conventional chemical pesticides, and the market is growing rapidly.

The aim of AMBER is to identify management practices that growers can use to improve the performance of biopesticides. At the moment we are working with a small, handpicked number of biopesticides, but the issues we are tackling can be applied to the many biopesticide products that will come onto the market in the future. A lot of the work in AMBER is being doing on commercial nurseries, backed up by experiments done in the lab or controlled environment rooms. By looking at biopesticide performance in a systematic way, we hope to develop some core principles that growers can use to optimise the use of biopesticides in IPM for their own particular needs.

The AMBER project is funded by the UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board using levy funds from UK growers.

Warwick Crop Centre is part of the University’s School of Life Sciences and is an internationally recognised centre for translational research in sustainable agriculture and horticulture and in food security.

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