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A successful breeding approach to improving a nematode biocontrol agent

Published 3/12/2020

Theme: Portal members

A research group at e-nema GmbH in Germany has succeeded in optimizing beneficial traits of the nematode Heterorhabditis bacteriophora.

In a multi-year research project funded by the EU and the German Ministry of Education and Research (Biochance), the team at E-nema has screened a collection of 50 wild type strains for longevity (field persistence and shelf life) and virulence against the invasive pest Western Corn Rootworm (Diabrotica v. virgifera).

The collection was then genotyped to identify molecular markers (SNPs) associated with beneficial traits. The following marker-supported cross-breeding programme produced an improved strain now available for control of the rootworm with the product dianem®.

The genetic improvement and adapted application technology allowed for the reduction of the application density from 2 to 1 billion nematodes/ha (ca. 1 kg/ha) with 200 ltr. of water/ha with the seeding machine.

Furthermore, the application costs were also reduced by exploiting economies of scale using biotechnical production at an industrial scale. Today a product with excellent efficacy at competitive costs is available, which can substitute and outperform chemical products.

The nematode Heterorhabditis bacteriophora is a natural enemy of soil-borne insect pests. It actively seeks for host insects and kills them within 2 days.

Results of 15 years field-testing in Hungary (CABI) and Austria (AGES) with plants infested with insect eggs have demonstrated that efficacy of dianem® is equal or higher than results obtained with chemical insecticides.

This product is registered in both Austria and Hungary and is now available in Hungary on the CABI BioProtection Portal Hungary page.

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