Four years of public-private cooperation results in successful development of new biological control products

The EU project BIOCOMES started at the end of 2013 and aimed at the development of new biological control products. Now, at the end of the project, two new biological control products are on the way to registration. One against Tuta absoluta in tomato and one against fusarium in cereals. Another biological control agent based on nematodes – for which no registration is needed – has considerable commercial potential to be further developed to control pests in maize and forestry. The BIOCOMES project has shown that it is possible to boost the development of new biological control products in just four years. A large international public-private partnership with industries and scientific institutes made this possible by successfully combining the needed scientific and commercial expertise.


Picture: Green house with heave Tuta absoluta infestation in tomato.

The developed biological control agent to combat fusarium in cereals is a based on a fungus. One of the BIOCOMES partners wished to develop this fungus but lacked the capacity for the necessary research and setting up of field tests. Coordinator Jürgen Köhl, plant pathology scientist at Wageningen University & Research: “The BIOCOMES project played a decisive role here, because without the partnership this company could not have developed this product.”

New biocontrol solution for tomato growers

The developed biocontrol agent to control the tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta is based on a virus. Although the market for this product may be limited, combatting this pest is frequently a bottleneck for the use of other biological products. Since there are not sufficient biological alternatives to combatting Tuta, it is also impossible to biologically suppress other pests in tomato cultivation as those biological control agents would be immediately destroyed by a synthetic agent against Tuta. Thanks to BIOCOMES, an economically viable development of this biological control agent can now be started which will lead to a new solution for growers to protect their tomatoes against this invasive pest.

Parasitoids against aphids in fruit orchards

A parasitoid-based product to control aphids in fruit orchards has been developed. Preventive releases of the aphid parasitoids can be especially of interest for the higher added-value organic fruit productions, where existing biopesticide strategies do not always offer a satisfying control of aphids and can impair the efficiency of the naturally occurring beneficials.

Breeding technology for nematodes

In order to better combat pests in agricultural crops, BIOCOMES partners have developed a new technology to breed nematodes with a better performance. Here too, commercial production of this BIOCOMES development is almost certain.

Successful public-private cooperation

Another very important outcome of four years of BIOCOMES might be termed ‘process knowledge’. This resulted in bringing all fourteen research institutes and thirteen companies to the table in a constructive way and being able to avoid potential conflicts regarding intellectual property rights. The BIOCOMES project has been able to close the gap between the needs for research (research and technology development for good scientific publications) and the needs for industry (high probability for a substantial improvement or a new product).

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Nora de Rijk
Nora de Rijk
Communication and dissemination BIOCOMES project