Natural Control of Pests and Diseases
Nature itself provides valuable and various natural antagonists against pests and diseases of our cultivated plants. Biological control not only relies on beneficial insects like ladybirds or parasitic wasps as antagonists, but uses a wide range of organisms. Naturally occurring bacteria, fungi and viruses, insects, mites and nematodes, as well as plant essences assist to grow healthy plants and help to protect the ecological balance in agro-ecosystems.
The Institute for Biological Control in Darmstadt is the only research institution in Germany which covers the full spectrum of disciplines in biological and biotechnological control. Therefore, it plays a key role in the development and evaluation of plant protection methods that are based on the use of natural antagonists of pests (especially damaging insects and mites) and plant diseases.
The Institute investigates Interactions and Modes of Action of various pests and its antagonists. This research is of crucial importance for the development of new biological control methods in plant protection.
For developing new strategies and methods for Biological Control of Pest Organisms we consider naturally occurring micro-organisms, viruses, insects, mites, and nematodes as suitable antagonists. We investigate and evaluate natural products to combat plant pests, and explore plant extracts that enhance the natural defense mechanisms of plants.
As another important activity of our Institute we investigate the Functional Biodiversity in agro-ecosystems. The diversity of naturally occurring organisms and their role in ecosystems are therefore in the focus of our research. These activities are essential for a bio-based and sustainable agro-economy. Biological control is an important component of integrated pest management systems, which makes use of the combination of biological, chemical, physical and cultivation measures to control pests and diseases of crops in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. Biological control is of particular importance in organic production where the application of chemical pesticides is not allowed. Furthermore, biological control methods can be used as an alternative to close control gaps, esp. in minor crops.
As part of the European efforts to reduce the use of chemical pesticides, biological control plays an increasingly important role in plant protection practice.