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How to use biopesticide (bioprotection) products

Theme: Basics of biocontrol

Timing, storage, handling, and method of application of biopesticides for pest management can be critical in ensuring the efficacy of the product. Here, you will find a selection of resources that will support you in maximizing the impact of these agents in your production system.

Overview

Why use biopesticides?

There are many good reasons to use biopesticides and biocontrol products:

Biopesticides can also be used within an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme/approach. A good example of how biocontrol or bioprotection fits within an overall IPM strategy is this IPM Pyramid.

Illustrations of how these components can be put together for specific crops can be seen in these panels from IBMA: IPM in practice.

Use of biopesticides step 1: Pest monitoring

A farmer scouting his cabbage field for pests
Farmer scouting his cabbage crop for pests © PixaHive 

Since biopesticide and biocontrol products are highly specific to a pest or a group of pests, they are the most effective when used against the correct pest. That is why you need to know which pest(s) they are dealing with.

It is crucial to inspect the crop regularly, looking for pests or signs of damage of pests and diseases. This step is called scouting. If you detect a pest, you must monitor it to assess its threat. Various ways can help monitor pests, such as monitoring traps like pheromones traps or digital tools.

A quick guide to effective crop monitoring is provided in this short video from the UK’s AHDB:

How to monitor crops. Credit: AHDB

Monitoring is one of the main steps in IPM and helps decide when to take control measures. It also helps to choose which product to use. Picking the right time and product to apply can increase pest control efficacy.

Use of biopesticides step 2: Storage

Unlike conventional pesticides, biocontrol and biopesticides can require more care, particularly with storage, and one should always refer to the product labels for safe use.  Indeed, bioprotection products can be sensitive to ambient temperature and humidity. You should also consider shelf life.

For example:

  • You should use macrobials like live predators if field conditions permit 
  • In general, you should store microbials in a cool, dry and dark place,

Poorly stored bioprotection products tend to be less efficient. By storing these products correctly, you can ensure that they will keep their efficacy.

The following video highlights some of these issues for the biocontrol agent Metarhizium:

As for conventional pesticides, you should still consider personal hygiene and safety. Depending on the product, personal protective equipment such as gloves or a mask might be required.

The following video highlights the need for PPE in the use of the fungal biocontrol agent Metarhizium:

Use of biopesticides step 3: Application

Considering the wide range of bioprotection products, ways of applying them in the field are also various. In general, you should apply bioprotection products early or later in the day so that the temperatures are not too high, and the UV rays are not too strong, preventing product denaturation. Although, always consult the product label to know what the correct application and dosage are.

A farmer spraying a biopesticide in the field
Maize farmer spraying a biopesticide product on his crop © CABI

Examples of application

Microbials

Their application is different depending on the type of product: coating seeds, mixing with manure, directly applying in the field, etc. The following videos show how you can apply the fungal bioprotection agent Metarhizium.

Example of the dosage of a microbial product
Example of the application of a microbial product

Macrobials

Usually, you can directly release live predators in the field. However, some have precise application requirements. For example, some predators must be released to certain parts of plants only.

Parasitoids sometimes come as eggs glued onto cards. You can staple these cards on leaves. This is the case for Trichogramma parasitoids, for example.

Example of the application of nematodes in fruit trees

A useful guide to the combination of EPNs with chemical pesticides can be found on the e-nema website.

Use of biopesticides step 4: Evaluating product efficacy

After applying the product, its efficacy must be evaluated to determine whether the pest has been controlled to satisfying levels or if further treatment is necessary.

The time between application and visible effects depends on the type of product used and is specified by the product label. To evaluate the impact of the product, you can look for signs in the field, such as signs of infection, dead pests, or the ratio of pests left.

For example, larvae infected by a fungal biopesticide usually stop feeding right after they ingest it. Some days later, you can find dead larvae with hard bodies. When the humidity is high, spores (the reproductive units of fungi) can even be visible outside the insect body. Scouting the field helps to notice those signs and to monitor results. If the pest is still present, you should consider further control measures.

Sign of a fungus infection caused by the use of a fungal biopesticide against an insect pest © CABI  

Summary and useful links

These are all the basics you need to be aware of, whether you want to learn how to maximize the efficacy of biocontrol and biopesticide products or if you are just getting started with them. However, we strongly advise consulting a professional and carefully reading the product labels when using a plant protection product before going through any of these steps.

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