Australias GRDC seeks new biological control products for damaging crop pests
Aug. 27, 2010
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) is calling on researchers around the globe to develop new biological control technologies to help protect Australian broadacre crops from serious pests.
The GRDC is seeking expressions of interest for the development of one or more biocontrol technologies aimed at cost effectively treating and managing pests that cause crop losses worth millions of dollars every year.
GRDC New Farm Products and Services program manager, Paul Meibusch, says enormous opportunities exist to develop biocontrol or biopesticidal agents for key pests such as pathogenic fungi, insect pests and nematodes.
"Limited chemical options and a lack of genetic resistance in some current crop species has reduced the control options available to many grain growers, resulting in increased interest in the development of alternative methods of control, including the use of biological agents,” Mr Meibusch said.
"Use of genetic resistance in some crops is extensive, but genetic resistance availability is limited to certain crops. Although the use of conventional pest management regimes is generally rewarding, it comes with significant costs and potential problems.”
Mr Meibusch said the continued use of chemical pesticides for disease and pest management was being questioned more and more, in terms of the impact on human health, the environment, trade implications and costs to growers and industry.
"As well, the continued development of pest resistance to chemical controls has become a critical issue, adding another level of complexity to pest management,” he said.
Use of selected microbial biological agents such as bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, fungi and other organisms has been shown to at least supplement and at times replace the use of pesticides in some cropping regimes. The use of biopesticide products based on metabolites of microbes have also shown to have some promise.
The GRDC is now seeking to improve this contribution of biological technologies to broadacre production inputs.
"The GRDC recognises a number of key high priority pests and pathogens where the effective use of biological technologies would benefit Australian broadacre growers. These include, but are not limited to, nematodes, diamondback moth, crown rot and redlegged earth mite,” Mr Meibusch said.
"It is also recognised that some biocontrol technologies have already been commercialised and are currently available. However, existing data would suggest the potential pool of helpful organisms and their by-products has hardly been tapped.”
Expressions of interest are therefore sought for novel biopesticide options to assist Australian farmers manage key pests. Potential biopesticides might include:
• Macrobials – beneficial insects, nematodes, etc
• Microbials – virus, fungi, bacteria, etc
• Semio-chemicals – behaviour modifying agents for control of pest populations (pheromones etc)
• Natural products – plant extracts with insecticidal, fungicidal or a Systemic Activated Resistance effect
Applicants are encouraged to identify a specific target pest or pathogen and submit an innovative biocontrol approach to its management. Groups with products that have already reached proof-of-concept stages are also encouraged to apply.
The GRDC welcomes collaborations between groups, in particular those that include partners aiming to commercialise the outcome of any research.
"On behalf of growers and the Australian Government, the GRDC anticipates investing up to $2 million over a period of four years in the selected project(s), with the successful proponent to progress the project to the practical proof of concept stage,” Mr Meibusch said.
"It is anticipated that subsequent funding to facilitate product development and commercialisation of a new product will attract co-investment from the commercialising entity.”
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