Biological plant protection is based on the use of natural antagonists of plant pests and pathogens. We investigate the interaction of plant pests or pathogens and their antagonists and develop methods to use them in crop protection.
Pests and their natural counterparts interact with each other in different ways and at different levels: molecular, cellular, organismic and population dynamic. We investigate these levels of interaction. Therefore, the elucidation of the mode of action of antagonists and natural substances is the basis of any new development of biological control strategies.
The effectiveness of antagonistic microorganisms depends largely on how the containing agent is produced, formulated and applied. To prove the potential of organisms for biological control, we develop production methods and formulation processes for different types of microorganisms and of relevant metabolites. Adapted application strategies are developed and questions regarding the optimization of environmental stability and effectiveness are taken into account. This work represents an interface between research, producers and users.
Various fungi and bacteria can live in plants as so-called endophytes without causing pathogenic symptoms. On the contrary, they may increase plant resistance. We are therefore investigating whether insect-pathogenic fungi and bacteria can be established as endophytes in crop plants. If successfully implemented, this could enable biological control of insect pests and plant diseases. For this purpose, we develop suitable microscopic as well as molecular methods.
For the safe use of bacteria, fungi and viruses in biological control, it is essential to identify and characterize these microorganisms. We develop specific genetic markers and analyze their genetic material using high throughput sequencing (HTS) techniques. The genetic information is used for unambiguous identification and classification of the microorganisms; these methods are of increasing relevance in the registration process of microbial biological control agents.
Due to the intensive use of codling moth granulovirus (CpGV) in organic pome fruit production, codling moth populations developed resistance to commercial CpGV preparations in various regions in Europe. By extensive molecular analyzes and crossing experiments we identified three different types of resistance and characterized numerous resistance-breaking CpGV isolates, which have so far solved the problem of resistance.
In cooperation with the extension services, we carry out resistance monitoring and develop resistance management strategies to prevent further establishing and spreading of CpGV resistance.