Crop scientists discover fungi alternative to pesticides

Wireworm damage to potato
Wireworm damage to potato

The fungi can be used to control wireworm, the larvae of click beetles which damages potatoes

Study identifies naturally occurring alternatives for controlling wireworm, a widespread potato pest in the UK

Farmers may soon have a non-chemical pesticide for controlling the damaging potato pest, wireworm, after scientists at Swansea University identified a fungal alternative.

The wireworm, the larvae of click beetles which damages potatoes and other arable crops, drastically reduce yields and is usually controlled by applying insecticides to the soil.

But a Swansea University team at the School of Environment and Society led by Dr Minshad Ali Ansari and Professor Tariq Butt, found one fungi in particular, the metarhizium anisopliae strain V1002, that had a 90 per cent success rate in killing the wireworms during testing.

Dr Ansari said this fungi offered the possibility of a 'completely organic approach to controlling pests'.

Herbicide resistance

The research on non-chemical alternatives comes as Kansas State University scientists confirmed weed resistance was growing to a key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

Weed scientist Phil Stahlman, who has studied the spreading resistance in western Kansas, said it might 'increase control costs for growers'. He recommended other herbicides that could be used to control the Kochia weed, also known as fireweed.

The weed is also commonly found in the western United States and Canada.

According to reports, Monsanto declined to answer questions about how significant the resistance problems are and if they are expected to spread further.

EU approves GM potato

Also, this week, the European Commission authorised BASF's genetically modified potato, 'Amflora', for cultivation in the EU. The potato is the first crop to be approved for planting in Europe since Monsanto's MON810 GM maize in 1998.

BASF said the Amflora crop is designed to yield industrial starch and will not enter the food chain.

Useful links
Kansas State University research
Swansea university

India bans planting of first GM food crop
Campaigners welcome decision to put on hold cultivation of genetically modified (GM) aubergine crop, Bt Brinjal, until 'safety of product' established
Brazilian GM crop surge reported
Brazil becomes second biggest biotech grower after the US as industry predicts big increases in GM soybean, maize and cotton production in 2010
GM crops causing a rise in pesticide use in US
Early falls in pesticide use on GM crops in the United States have been replaced by rapid increases according to study
Was 2009 the year the world turned against GM?
Despite promising the world in 2009, biotech corporations have increasingly raised the hackles of scientists and citizens worldwide
Bill Jordan: I don't think organics will feed the world
Jordans cereals founder Bill Jordan says his company's method of farming can feed the world and safeguard biodiversity

More from this author