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Biopesticide Demonstration Program (BDP) Sucess Story

Established in 2003, the Biopesticide Demonstration Program (BDP) is a pesticide risk reduction partnership program coordinated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The BDP, an interagency agreement between EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Interregional Research Project #4 (IR-4), funds and administers a competitive grants program for field demonstrations of registered biopesticides used within Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems. The field demonstrations are designed to increase awareness of effective options for integrating biologically-based technologies into existing crop products systems, as well as promote the use of novel combinations of biopesticides to enhance product performance. Since its inception, more than 50 projects—encompassing over 25 different biopesticides and 20 different crops—have received funding through BDP.

Three field demonstrations funded by the BDP are briefly described below. These projects illustrate that biopesticides can be ideal tools for both disease control and resistance management—with little or no environmental impact.

Managing Dollar Spot in Turfgrass – Bacillus lichenformis

EcoGuard™ is a liquid biofungicide containing spores of the bacterium Bacillus lichenformis. Bacillus lichenformis is a common soil microorganism that contributes to nutrient cycling and displays antifungal activity. Researchers at Mississippi State University tested the efficacy of EcoGuard™ in the control dollar spot on a Tif-green bermudagrass putting green. Dollar spot, which is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, is most common from spring through early summer, and from late summer through early fall. In low-cut turf, the disease appears as small sunken patches of tan-to-brown turf. On dewy mornings, white, cobwebby fungal growth is sometimes visible on the turf.

EcoGuard™ was applied to turf as a stand-alone treatment and in combination with the traditional fungicide chlorothalonil. Overall, the researchers found that the biofungicide reduced chemical input and fungal resistance, and provided a level of control of dollar spot that was comparable to traditional fungicides. Based on counts of infection centers, dollar spot symptoms were reduced 66% to 95% with the use of EcoGuard™.

Managing Leaf Drop Disease in Lettuce – Coniothyrium minitans

In a two year study, the researchers at the University of Arizona tested the efficacy of Contans® in combating leaf drop on lettuce caused by the fungi Sclerotinia minor and S. sclerotiorum. The incidence of the disease is highest when cool to mild and moist conditions exist—from December through early March—in western Arizona lettuce fields. After lettuce drop occurs, the resting bodies of Sclerotinia remain in soil. These resting bodies, called sclerotia, can remain viable for several years and germinate when lettuce is planted again to initiate lettuce drop. Contans® is a granular biopesticide composed of spores of the naturally occurring fungus Coniothyrium minitans, which feed on the sclerotia.

Field trials with sclerotia of S. minor and S. sclerotorium were conducted using the Contans®:

  • Alone,
  • In combination with another biofungicide, Serenade® (Bacillus subtilis), and
  • In combination with the traditional fungicide Endura™ (boscalid).

Applications were made to the soil when the lettuce (cultivar Winterhaven) was sown and thinned. The researchers found that the Contans®, used either alone or with Serenade® or Endura™, can reduce lettuce drop caused by S. Sclerotiorum by up to 78%.

Managing Codling Moth in Apples – Pheromone-Based Mating Disruption and Granulosis Virus

A team of researchers from Michigan State University, Gerber Products Company, and Pacific Biocontrol Corporation conducted a multi-year project involving area-wide management of codling moth in apples using:

  • Hand-held and aerially applied mating disruption formulations,
  • The granulosis viruses Cyd-X and Virosoft CP4, and
  • The limited use of reduced-risk and traditional pesticides.

The codling moth, which was brought to America from Asia Minor over 200 years ago, causes injury to apples from the larvae that tunnel their way into the fruit to feed. At the end of their growth spurt, they exit the fruit and drop to the ground, seeking shelter for the winter so they can start the whole process again. Second-generation larvae are responsible for most of the damage to the apples.

In the first year of the study, over 800 acres of contiguous apple trees were managed, with an additional 1,300 acres added in the second year. Catches from over 300 pheromone traps set up within the area-wide project were monitored weekly and orchards were visually inspected for codling moth injured fruit during the first and second generations and at harvest. The initial two years of the study proved highly successful, with codling moth injury to fruit approximately 87% lower in area-wide orchards at harvest, compared to non-pheromone treated (non-disrupted) orchards outside of the project. Area-wide orchards incorporating moth virus sustained 4.2% fruit injury compared to 77% fruit injury in non-disrupted orchards outside of the project.

The project results were distributed to growers, industry, and scientists through a variety of local, state-wide, and national efforts, including:

  • A display at a local farm supply store,
  • Updates at weekly breakfast meetings,
  • Publication in newsletters, and
  • Presentations at key venues.

Due to the high visibility of the demonstration project, the use of mating disruption in Michigan has increased four to five-fold from 2003 to 2005.

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