On the road to eleven biocontrol agents

The European Union has for the coming years committed itself to Integrated Pest Management as strategy to control pests and diseases with the least possible use of synthetic products.

Photo of the Biocomes team

This resulted in BIOCOMES, a programme in which private parties are, together with several research organisations, searching for eleven concrete biological products. ‘After one year we are still sailing a successful course with all eleven products and two new production technologies!’, says the coordinator of BIOCOMES, Dr. Jürgen Köhl of Wageningen UR.

Market thinking

At first sight it might look a bit odd, agrees Köhl: a consortium in which academic scientists are participating in a search for a commercial product as starting point. ‘But in fact, this story starts one step earlier’, says Köhl, ‘and this is a question raised by the EU. The EU has chosen for an integrated method of pest and disease control with synthetic products as no more than a last resort. And what would be more logical than the further development of a number of concrete biological products, for which the first modest steps have already been taken?’

Cooperation and cultural differences

The strength of BIOCOMES lies in bringing together parties that were until now not per se used to work together, according to Köhl. Apart from various parties from the industry the BIOCOMES consortium also includes research organisations and experimental stations, and these are all originating from different European cultures. This of course results in the necessary challenges in the field of communication and coordination. But I must say that the first year has in this respect seen a lot of positive developments. We are in fact experiencing the close cooperation between companies and research organisations to be very valuable. And in this way we are bringing together all specific expertise required for the development of biocontrol agents. I am therefore expecting that this will result in networks that will continue to exist after conclusion of a project such as BIOCOMES. And this will stimulate further successful development of biological control products.

Research results

At this moment we are publishing results after one year of BIOCOMES research. In this newsletter you can read the results of the teams working on the diseases powdery mildew and soil-borne Verticillium wilt, and the pests gypsy moth and aphids.
Updates about the other BIOCOMES pests and diseases will be published in the next weeks on the website and in the next newsletter (April).

Wet!

But the first year of BIOCOMES did not only bring sunshine, says Köhl. ‘The field experiments for the control of brown rot in peaches in Southern Europe have been facing extremely wet weather. This resulted in the fungus Monilinia fructicola hitting unusually hard and in fact caused failure of the field experiments in the first year. The project, however, is running until the end of 2017 which means that almost three years are remaining to take this and the other products to a successful result.’

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