Developments in bio-controls for fresh produce market

Changes in crop protection over the last forty years mean that as an industry, horticulture can no longer rely on an unending supply of novel agrochemicals to solve plant health problems. The effects of broad-spectrum treatments on the till then overlooked populations of the ‘natural enemies’ began to become clear in the 1980s. Spray programmes were adapted to reduce the impact on these ‘beneficials’. Increased understanding of pest and disease life cycles by a new generation of researchers, building on earlier discoveries, helped to demonstrate how we could harness bio-control methods to reduce the need for chemical control solutions. This was also helpful to counter the increasingly vociferous environmental campaigns against pesticide usage which led to consumer demand for minimum residues and legislation for avoiding contamination of the environment. 

Growers now rely on a holistic approach involving resistant varieties, crop environment control, use of biocontrol via biopesticides and beneficial and the use of selective agrochemical products as part of integrated pest management. Developments in biocontrol and physical approaches to dealing with crop protection issues are always welcome and good examples of these are newly available this season from Fargro: Met52 OD and FLiPPER. 

FLiPPER is a new contact broad-spectrum bioinsecticide / bioacaricide for the control of soft-bodied insects and mites in protected crops of cucumber, strawberry and tomato and yet it is compatible with beneficial insects and pollinators. FLiPPER’s active ingredient starts as the by-product of extra-virgin olive oil production which is then subjected to a patented process of pure distillation and fractionation. This produces a tightly defined specification of long-chain carboxylic acids (C14-C20) whose selection has been optimised to create a product that provides effective and lasting control of sucking pests. Potassium salt is included within the formulation to enable hydro-solubility. 

The raw material has been evaluated by the EU regulatory authorities and affirmed as being of "Food Grade" standard. FLiPPER has organic approval elsewhere in Europe and this will be applied for in the UK. It has been extensively trialled on other crops including ornamentals and edibles both outdoors and under protection. Extensions to the approved label use as well as EAMUs are being actively pursued.

FLiPPER is extremely IPM compatible and can work well in production systems even where biological controls are used extensively. Trials have shown no harmful effects on pollinators as long as guidelines are followed. Applications should be made at the first sign of pest emergence and thorough coverage of all leaf surfaces is required for best results. 

Met52 OD is a handy liquid formulation of the familiar Met 52 Granular product containing 11% Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae strain F52 (a minimum of 2 x 1012 cfu/L). Crops grown in substrate like the majority of the protected strawberry crop in the UK required a liquid formulation for ease of application. The Met 52 OD label specifies that it is for the reduction of thrips and/or whiteflies and/or mites in strawberry, fruiting vegetables (cucurbitaceae and solanaceae), ornamental crops (protected) and thrips in allium crops (unprotected). 

This microbial-based pest control product contains the naturally occurring insect parasitic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae strain F52. Once in contact with the cuticle of the target insect, spores of Metarhizium anisopliae germinate, penetrate through the cuticle and grow within the insect. New spores are then formed from the hyphae that may emerge from the dead target insect. 

Spores of Metarhizium anisopliae var. anisopliae strain F52 can reasonably be active at temperatures between 15-32°C, and have optimal activity between 25-30°C. Outside the temperature range of 15-32°C, activity may be reduced but spores remain viable unless temperatures rise above 40°C when spore viability will decline rapidly. 

Met52 OD should not be mixed with other plant protection products. The effect of fungicides applied either before or after it on the effectiveness of Met52 OD has not been established. The product has been tested on a range of arthropods, and bumblebees: no adverse effects have been seen in greenhouse conditions. Also, it should be noted that Met52 OD may be harmful to natural enemies. It is vital to consult your supplier of natural enemies on the use of Met52 OD in combination with the use of natural enemies.