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Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI)
Federal Research Centre
for Cultivated Plants

Prof. Dr. Johannes A. Jehle

Schwabenheimer Straße 101
69221 Dossenheim

Ms Christine Fuchs
Tel: +49(0) 3946 47-4900
Fax: +49(0) 3946 47-4805
E-mail: bi@  julius-kuehn.  de

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Institute booklet

Nature offers numerous antagonists of plant pests and diseases. Beyond lady beetles and parasitoid wasps, biological control recruits a broad spectrum of organisms and biological substances: naturally occurring bacteria, fungi and viruses, predatory and parasitic insects, predatory mites and insect pathogenic nematodes but also plant extracts can be used to produce healthy plants and to prevent damage from nature.

The Institute for Biological Control oft he JKI is the only research institute in Germany, dedicated to the whole spectrum of disciplines in biological control of plant pests and diseases. It plays a key role in developing and evaluating methods that are based on natural antagonists for plant pests and disease control.
The institute research evolves around:

  • functional biodiversity
  • biological control of plant pests
  • biological control of plant diseases
  • developing new biological control methods.

Biological plant protection is an important component of integrated pest management, where biological, chemical, physical and cultivation measures are combined for an efficient and environmentally friendly pest control. Biological control methods are of particular importance in organic production, where the application of chemical pesticides is not allowed. Furthermore, they can be used as an alternative to close control gaps. As part of the European efforts to reduce the use of chemical pesticides, biological control measures play an increasingly important role in plant protection practice.

+++ Research News +++

DIY camera trap for automated insect monitoring

Monitoring of insects, e.g. of hoverflies as important pollinators and antagonists of various pests, is used to assess their population sizes and design effective conservation measures. With traditional monitoring methods, insects are trapped and killed in most cases, to be able to identify the respective species based on microscopic features or with molecular techniques. Camera traps for insect monitoring can yield data at a high spatiotemporal resolution with less time and money investment. This method could complement traditional monitoring methods (with high taxonomic resolution) and be used as an additional monitoring tool.

In the project MonViA (Monitoring of Biodiversity in Agricultural Landscapes) a weatherproof DIY camera trap system was developed, which is completely self-sufficient by generating the necessary power with a solar panel and can be deployed in the field for the whole season. Flower-visiting insects are visually attracted by a platform with artificial flowers and are detected with an AI-enabled camera in real time when landing on the platform. The areas with detected insects are cropped from the images and saved, and can be used for further classification (= identification) and analysis. By providing detailed instructions and completely open source software, everybody who is interested can build and deploy the camera trap, e.g. in Citizen Science projects or in the private garden.

Website: https://maxsitt.github.io/insect-detect-docs/
Contact: maximilian.sittinger@  julius-kuehn.  de

Christian Oehlmann successful at the ScienceSlam evening in Bozen

Christian Oehlmann, joint doctoral student at the Institute for Biological Control and the Laimburg Research Center, has been working on a joint project on diapause control in codling moth since August 2022. Now he has presented his project at ScienceSlam Bozen 2022 and was named the winner of the evening.

The ScienceSlam is about explaining the own science to a non-specialist audience in a most entertaining way as possible. The only rule: It must not last more than 10 minutes, otherwise everything is allowed. The ScienceSlam took place in Bozen on three evenings in October. Every evening, 6-7 scientists presented their topic on stage and the audience had the opportunity to rate the performances. Christian Oehlmann won the third and last evening with his ScienceSlam: "Are the pests still asleep?" an absolutely not sleepy lecture about a key pest in pome fruit production, the codling moth.

Congratulations to Christian on the excellent slam and the great success!

Watch again under https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXfmXGRaOyc&list=PL3gO-zN-WSSi6-CW29cjCseFqoy9du4sq&index=18 (Language of the presentation: german)

More about ScienceSlam at scienceslam.it

Molecular identification of Cydia pomonella granulovirus resistance in codling moth, Cydia pomonella

Larvae of the codling moth (CM), Cydia pomonella, bore into unripe apples and complete their development inside up to the last larval stage, resulting in non-marketable fruits and high economic damage. In organic and integrated pome fruit production, different Cydia pomonella granulovirus (CpGV) products are successfully used to reduce infestation and avoid fruit damage.

Some years ago, CpGV resistant CM populations were recognized in Europe and recently also in the USA. Resistance-breaking CpGV isolates have been detected and solved the resistance problem. However, little is known about the molecular resistance mechanism(s). In a new research project, supported by the DFG, the molecular basics of CpGV resistance will be investigated.

The final outcome can answer the question how the codling moth blocks CpGV replication at an early stage of infection. Elucidating the mechanism of CpGV resistance to codling moth will not only address scientific questions but also directs the way for a further sustainable use of CpGV in pome fruit production.

„Solar beneficiaries” Potential for promoting beneficial insects in agri-photovoltaic systems

With the concept of dual land use, agri-photovoltaic (PV) systems offer a way of reducing the conflict of use between open-space PV systems and agriculture. A new research project aims to provide new knowledge about how agri-photovoltaic systems could be designed in an environmentally friendly way generating additional benefit to agriculture via pest control and pollination. The project focuses on developing on-farm measures to promote beneficial insects, such as suitable flower strips and refuges in the system. Furthermore, the project will evaluate how the solar panel directly affects the migration of beneficial insects and pests.

Promotion of the codling moth parasitoid Ascogaster quadridentata with nectary plants

In this study, we demonstrated that the codling moth braconid wasp (Ascogaster quadridentata) can feed on various sugar compounds naturally found in plant nectar and honeydew of aphids. In addition, the braconid wasp can consume the nectar of flowering plants with exposed nectaries, such as buckwheat, wild carrot, coriander, and parsnip. Wasps fed in this manner lived significantly longer and females laid more eggs than wasps supplied only with water. Offering such flowering plants in the field could promote this important parasitoid of the codling moth, especially in orchard meadows.

Publication: Mátray & Herz 2022. Flowering plants serve nutritional needs of Ascogaster quadridentata (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a key parasitoid of codling moth. Biological Control. 171, 104950.

Doi: 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2022.104950

BiologicaL Control at BIOFACH Nuremberg

The Institute for Biological Control exhibited parts of its work at the BIOFACH in Nuremberg (26.-29.07.2022). Research projects on biological control in fruit production were presented together with research topics from other JKI institutes at the booth of the BMEL. In addition, Dr. Anne Schmitt and Prof. Dr. Johannes Jehle informed on the outcomes of the EU project RELACS  and biological control of codling moth, respectively. Both projects are of eminent importance for organic growers. Foto (G. Leefkens). From l. to r.: Dr. Anne Schmitt, Prof. Dr. Johannes Jehle, Dr. Jörg Wennmann.

Insects for the control of poisonous ragwort

Mit Insekten gegen Kreuzkraeuter

Because of its toxicity for grazing animals, tansy ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris, syn.: Senecio jacobaeae) is becoming an increasing problem for farmers who use their grasslands for grazing or for hay and silage production. As part of the EIP-Agri-Project "Antago-Senecio", the JKI and the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen are investigating different solution approaches with active support of farmers from the Westerwald, Germany. Herbivorous insects specialized on ragwort plants, in par-ticular the cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae), the ragwort flea beetle (Longitarsus jacobaeae) and the ragwort crown-boring moth (Cochylis atricapitana), should help to control these poisonous plants. For this purpose, laboratory tests with insects on various ragwort species, as well as field tests in the Westerwald are planned. These trials are the basis to enable statements about the suitability and the harmful effects of the insect species and should help to evaluate their potential for long-term settlement and application processes.

Contact: sophie.mueller@julius-kuehn.de

How licorice controls tomato diseases

Copper plays an important role for control of plant diseases in organic farming. However, its use has ecological side effects and therefore, alternatives for copper are needed. An extract from licorice leaves (Glycyrrhiza glabra) showed good efficacy in tomato against several plant pathogenic bacte-ria and the causal agent of late blight, Phytophthora infestans. The extract had fungicidal and bacte-ricidal properties and also stimulated the plant immune system. Licorice extract may thus contribu-te to the reduction of copper use in plant protection.

Publication: Hermann et al. 2022. Biocontrol of plant diseases using Glycyrrhiza glabra leaf extract.  https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-12-21-2813-RE

JKI-BI involved in course of the UN University on biological control.

A group of people in front of a building.
Participants of the United Nations University. ©JKI

From the 27th June to 1st July 2022 the international course „Microbial technology applied to the biological control of postharvest fungal diseases in fruits“ of the United Nations University Programme for Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean held in Tucuman, Argentina. The course was attended by 25 mainly PhD students from Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Columbia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Argentina and organized by Prof. Julián Rafael Dib (PROIMI-CONICET, Tucuman). Scientists from different Latin-American countries and Quatar gave an overview about ongoing research on biological control. Dr. Dietrich Stephan from our institute (JKI-BI) lectured about production formulation and application strategies of microbial based biocontrol agents. Additionally, he gave a practical course on formulation of microorganisms. His participation was supported by the UN-University and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Mid-term meeting of the MORGEN project team

On June 28 and 29, project members from three JKI institutes met for the mid-term meeting of the MORGEN project at the JKI site in Quedlinburg. The MORGEN project (MOdelling of dRouGht stress tolErance in barley using biological plaNt protection – the crop of tomorrow) aims to model the drought stress tolerance of barley using biological plant protection.

Due to Covid-19, it was the first meeting in presence. The participants used it for intensive exchange and discussion of previous results as well as for visiting ongoing field and greenhouse trials in Quedlinburg. The professional exchange continued until the evening with a guided tour through the World Heritage Site of Quedlinburg along with a tasting of liquid barley end products at Brauhaus Lüdde. The next project meeting will take place in the new building of the Institute for Biological Control in Dossenheim at the end of this year.

A group of people, mostly women, are standing on a lawn in front of a modern-looking building. In front of them is the partially transparent entrance sign to the Julius Kühn Institute.
Scientists of the project MORGEN (MOdellierung von TRockenstresstoleranz in GerstE unter Anwendung von biologischem PflanzeNschutz – die Kulturpflanze von MORGEN).

Field trials started against insect pests in Citrus

Within the framework of the EU funded Project IPM-4-Citrus field trials started last week in Adana, Turkey to control lepidopterean pests with a newly developed Bacillus thuringiensis product. Further field trials will follow in Tunisia this autumn. After a long break caused by the Corona pandemic the IPM-4-Citrus partners met in Adana. The project with partners from Tunisia, Lebanon, Turkey, France, Italy and Germany aims to develop a Bt product, which should be produced and commercialized by the Tunisian company MEDIS. The French partner at INSA in Toulouse developed a production system, whereas Dr. Dietrich Stephan at our institute developed a formulation system. The Institute Pasteur Tunisia is engaged in risk assessment. Meanwhile the Tunesian company MEDIS is constructing a production plant for the new Bt product.

New viruses against Olive leaf moth and the Egyptian cotton leaf worm

The larvae of Olive leaf moth (Palpita vitrealis) and the Egyptian cotton leaf worm, (Spodoptera littoralis) are pests, which can cause enormous economic damage to their host plants in the Mediterranean area. In two cooperations with the Cairo University and Tunisian research institutions, two novel Baculoviruses occurring as natural pathogens were detected and characterized. The genomes of both viruses were complete sequenced. The Palpita-specific virus represents a new species within the Alphabaculoviruses, whereas the other is a new isolate of SpliNPV. The suitability of both viruses as biocontrol agent will be further evaluated.

Publications: El-Salamouny et al. 2022 (https://www.openagrar.de/receive/openagrar_mods_00079654?q=El-Salamouny); Ben Tiba et al. (2022) (https://rdcu.be/cP2Dc)

First evidence of CpGV resistance in the USA

In a cooperation with Rutgers University in Bridgeton (NJ) it was able to demonstrate a first case of CpGV resistance in Washington State in codling moth (Cydia pomonella). CpGV field resistance was detected for the first time in Germany in 2005 by our institute. Meanwhile it had been found in different countries in Europe. To overcome the resistance it is necessary that apple growers switch to resistance-breaking CpGV isolates as a resistance management strategy.

Publication: Fan et al. 2022 (https://www.openagrar.de/receive/openagrar_mods_00080037).

Microbial Seed Treatment

Soil associated pathogens can negatively affect maize seed germination, which can lead to yield losses. The application of microbial antagonists, either as soil treatment or as seed coating, represents a possibility to suppress pathogens. Employees of JKI were able to develop a method for targeted infection of germinating maize seeds with different relevant pathogens. Furthermore, bacterial and fungal antagonists were identified that are suitable for suppressing the diseases.

Publications: Koch et al. 2022; Agronomy 12, 1388. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12061388; Pfeiffer et al., 2021; JPDP 128, 1227–124. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41348-021-00498-z

New greenhouses at Dossenheim site completed

With the completion of brand-new greenhouses, the full working capacity of the Institute for biological control has been regained after its moving to the new location to Dossenheim.

Moving to Dossenheim is completed!

After the moving to the new site in Dossenheim the Institute for Biological control has restarted with its research in the new laboratories.

PhD on biological wireworm control

Biological control of wireworms (Agriotes spp.) in potato cultivation using the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium brunneum - this was the PhD thesis of Mr. Maximilian Paluch who successfully defended his PhD on 29.11.2021 at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Congratulations! Within the AgriMet project, Max investigated two new formulations of M. brunneum to control wireworms in potato plantations. In laboratory, greenhouse and field experiments he identified several key factors which have a strong impact on the effectiveness of M. brunneum in field use and which need to be addressed in the development of a sustainable wireworm control strategy. Currently, Dr. Paluch is working at our institute and investigates the production and formulation of antagonistic fungi for the control of phytopathogenic nematodes. This new project is also a cooperation with other JKI institutes and practitioners.

In case of an emergency, being well prepared is everything!

This motto is followed in international project "Preparedness in biological control of priority biosecurity threats" funded by the Euphresco program: guidelines for a preventive assessment of natural enemies for biocontrol of invasive pests are to be jointly drafted. These evaluation steps will then be tested "theoretically", using internationally significant case studies, for their feasibility. The common goal is to establish an active network for the exchange of information in future decision-making processes on use of invertebrate biological control agents for plant protection.

Contact: kathleen.lemanski@  julius-kuehn.  de

With nematodes against tomato pests

Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) as effective antagonists of tomato pests in Egypt - this was the aim of the dissertation of Mr. Mokhtar Abonaem, which he successfully defended in summer at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Congratulations on this achievement! As a DAAD scholarship holder, Dr. Abonaem selected and tested various EPNs for their suitability in controlling different noctuid moths, tomato leaf miner and whitefly, and tested different formulation and application methods. In the meantime, Mr. Abonaem has returned to the National Plant Protection Research Centre at Cairo and is continuing his work there in optimizing the use of these biological control agents under field conditions in Egypt.

Insect Doctors PhD course in Paris

Fifteen PhD students of the European project InsectDoctors met for the first time to attend the projects courses II – laboratory methods in insect pathology – and course IV – values and pitfalls of metagenomics for pathogen detection – at the French Institut national de recherche pour l'agriculture, l'alimentation et l'environnement (INRAE) in Jouy-en-Josas, France. In the two-weeks practical workshop the focus lay entirely on insect pathogens and how to detect them. The aim is to prepare the young scientists for their tasks during their PhD and for their future career.

New resistance type detected.

The codling moth granulovirus (CpGV) is an important biological control agent for codling moth control in integrated and organic apple production. Yet, some pest populations developed resistance against the virus.  In our recent publication  „Cross-Resistance of the Codling Moth against Different Isolates of Cydia pomonella Granulovirus Is Caused by Two Different but Genetically Linked Resistance Mechanisms” we demonstrate the functional differences of type I and type II CpGV resistance as well as which CpGV isolates are suitable to overcome these resistances.

New baculovirus characterized.

The army fall worm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is an invasive pest species to Africa and Asia, which caused especially in Africa dramatic crop infestations during the last years. In a co-operation with research partners from Benin, a new baculovirus from field samples from Nigeria was isolated and fully sequenced. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that the new SfMNPV isolate is closely related to South-American virus isolates suggesting that the virus was introduced to West-.Africa together with the host S. frugiperda. Publication Genome Sequence of a Spodoptera frugiperda Multiple Nucleopolyhedrovirus Isolated from Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) in Nigeria, West Africa.

Cooperation project with Laimburg Research Centre (LRC) has started.

In August a JKI co-worker has initiated crossing experiments between different lines of codling moth, Cydia pomonella, which had been selected at LRC for different voltinism behavior. Aim of the project is to identify the molecular determinants steering the diapause and thus the number of codling moth generations produced during the vegetation season. This project will allow an improved evaluation of the influence of global warming on the damaging potential of this pest insect.

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