Grains Research and Development

Date: 01.09.1999

Bio-insecticides out of the closet

New bio-insecticides were a star attraction at last year's Melbourne's science and industry fair Manufesto '98.

Visitors learned that naturally occurring bacteria, fungi, nematodes (roundworms) and viruses are being harnessed as environmentally friendly alternatives to many chemical pesticides.

"The good thing about using these naturally occurring organisms is that they can control insect pests without some of the nasty secondary effects that we see with the chemicals they are replacing," said CSIRO Entomology project leader Ray Akhurst. "The main benefit of using these organisms is that they tend to be highly specific. They will attack and kill the target insect pest, but will not affect other insects, birds, fish, livestock, native animals or humans," Dr Akhurst said.

It takes years of research to develop a commercial bio-insecticide, but some are already on the market. Dr Akhurst said they would be cost-competitive with other insecticides.

Here's a list of bio-insecticides, of interest to graingrowers, available (or being tested for market) in Australia at the moment.

Fungi

BioGreen - used against red-headed cockchafer (a pasture pest) in southern Australia

BioCane - not yet available; currently being tested for market - used to control scarab (also called 'white grub') in sugarcane

Viruses

Gemstar - not yet available; currently being tested for market — used for controlling heliothis on sorghum, various grain legumes and tomatoes

Bt products

Dipel, Delfin and MVP are all available for caterpillar control on cotton, tomatoes, fruit trees, field crops and horticultural crops.