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Journal of Invertebrate Pathology
Vol. 132, 2015, Pages: 1–41

Insect pathogens as biological control agents: Back to the future

L.A. Lacey, D. Grzywacz, D.I. Shapiro-Ilan, R. Frutos, M. Brownbridge, M.S. Goettel

IP Consulting International, Yakima, WA, USA.

Abstract

The development and use of entomopathogens as classical, conservation and augmentative biological control agents have included a number of successes and some setbacks in the past 15 years. In this forum paper we present current information on development, use and future directions of insect-specific viruses, bacteria, fungi and nematodes as components of integrated pest management strategies for control of arthropod pests of crops, forests, urban habitats, and insects of medical and veterinary importance.

Insect pathogenic viruses are a fruitful source of microbial control agents (MCAs), particularly for the control of lepidopteran pests. Most research is focused on the baculoviruses, important pathogens of some globally important pests for which control has become difficult due to either pesticide resistance or pressure to reduce pesticide residues. Baculoviruses are accepted as safe, readily mass produced, highly pathogenic and easily formulated and applied control agents. New baculovirus products are appearing in many countries and gaining an increased market share. However, the absence of a practical in vitro mass production system, generally higher production costs, limited post application persistence, slow rate of kill and high host specificity currently contribute to restricted use in pest control. Overcoming these limitations are key research areas for which progress could open up use of insect viruses to much larger markets.

Graphical abstract

Keywords: Microbial control; Baculovirus; Entomopathogenic bacteria; Transgenes; Entomopathogenic fungi; Entomopathogenic nematodes; Bacillus thuringiensis; Bt-crops.

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