Biopesticide uses bacterial strains to control caterpillars

19-04 | |
The microbiological insecticide has to be sprayed on the leaves, and when the caterpillars eat them, they are affected by the action of proteins. - Photo: Fernando Valicente
The microbiological insecticide has to be sprayed on the leaves, and when the caterpillars eat them, they are affected by the action of proteins. - Photo: Fernando Valicente

A pesticide composed by a mix of two isolates of the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria is the newest bioproduct to control fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, and soybean looper, Chrysodeixis includens. Acera – the trade name for the product – was developed with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) technology and conceived in partnership with Ballagro Agro Technology, the Brazilian company that will commercialise it.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a species of bacteria that produces proteins with specific properties that are toxic for insects but harmless for humans and other vertebrates. Unlike chemical pesticides, it is innocuous for the environment. The product has to be sprayed on the leaves, and when the caterpillars eat them, they will die.

Control caterpillars in soybeans, corn, and cotton

“Acera does not affect the environment, it does not intoxicate those who apply it, it does not kill the natural enemies of the pests or pollute rivers and springs, hence contributing to sustainability”, said Embrapa researcher Fernando Hercos Valicente. Acera was registered to control the two species of caterpillars and could be used in crops like soybeans, corn, and cotton.

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The pesticide is a bioproduct recommended to control fall armyworm (pictured) and other caterpillars. - Photo: Artur Torres

The pesticide is a bioproduct recommended to control fall armyworm (pictured) and other caterpillars. – Photo: Artur Torres

Increasing resistance

Every year the main pests controlled by genetically modified (GM) cultivars are becoming increasingly resistant, says Valicente. ‘Consequently, the concurrent use of chemical control with GM crops has occurred in an attempt to reduce losses in agricultural production. All of that causes expressive economic, social and environmental damages.”

According to him, by combining two Bt bacterial strains with distinct and complementary modes of action, Acera hinders the emergence of caterpillar resistance to the product.

Crop sustainability

The scientist believes that the use of new microbiological insecticides is an important alternative to control soybean looper and fall armyworm, especially in corn, soybean and cotton crops. “Bioinsecticides also contribute to crop sustainability. They only attack the target insects while natural enemies remain in the field.”

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The use of new microbiological pesticides is is an alternative to control soybean looper (pictured) in cotton crops as well. - Photo: Sebastião José de Araújo

The use of new microbiological pesticides is is an alternative to control soybean looper (pictured) in cotton crops as well. – Photo: Sebastião José de Araújo

According to Lecio Kaneko, Ballagro’s product and market manager, the product description may include other pests in the future. Kaneko attributes the high efficiency of the bioproduct to the diversity of Cry and VIP proteins, which are produced for these new isolates of the bacteria, and to the technology in fermentation and formulation especially developed for Acera. “It was tested in all of the regions of Brazil, with excellent results”, he said.

The researchers are now studying the viability of Acera being applied through drones.

Azevedo
Daniel Azevedo Freelance correspondent in Brazil