Skip to main content

How to use bioprotection effectively

Theme: Basics of biocontrol

Timing, storage, handling, and method of application of biological-based approaches to 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.


Why use bioprotection

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

  • They are natural and have a minimal environmental impact, plus they leave little or no toxic residues, so we get cleaner and safer food.  
  • They can introduce different modes of action to their chemical counterparts, reducing the selection pressure for pesticide resistance.  
  • Many have zero or very low pre-harvest and re-entry intervals.  
  • Many products are highly specific to the target pest.  
  • And many are perfectly compatible with standard spray equipment.

Bioprotection or biocontrol 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.

Monitoring and scouting for pests

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 growers 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 a pest is detected, monitoring is needed to assess its threat. It can be done in various ways, such as using 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:

Example of the application of nematodes in fruit trees

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.

  • Read our blog to learn how to select the right biopesticide or biocontrol product for you.

Safe use and storage of bioprotection products

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. Shelf life also needs to be considered.

For example:

  • Macrobials like live predators must be used immediately if field conditions permit 
  • Microbials must typically be stored in a cool, dry and dark place, if they are not going to be used immediately.   

Poorly stored bioprotection products tend to be less efficient. Making sure that those products are stored correctly will help ensure their efficacy.

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

As for conventional pesticides, personal hygiene and safety still need to be considered. 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:

Application of bioprotection products

Considering the wide range of bioprotection products, ways of applying them in the field are also various. In general, bioprotection products should be applied 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


They can be applied differently depending on the type of product: coating seeds, mixing with manure, directly applying in the field, etc. This is addressed in the following videos for the fungal bioprotection agent Metarhizium.

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


Live predators are usually directly released 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. These cards need to be stapled 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.

Evaluating product efficacy 

After applying the product, the product’s efficacy needs to be evaluated to know if 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, growers 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 the biopesticide is ingested. Some days later, larvae are found dead, and their bodies are hard. 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 has not been controlled, further actions must be taken.

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

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.

  • Use the Biobest Side Effect Manual, a helpful tool to ensure the maximum efficacy of your bioprotection product.  
  • To know how to use bioprotection products within an IPM approach, read our blog on the subject. 
  • To find biocontrol and biopesticide products in your country, browse the CABI BioProtection Portal
Share this page
Related articles
Looking for safe and sustainable ways of managing pests and diseases?
Is this page helpful?

We are sorry the page didn't meet your
expectations. Please let us know how
we can improve it.