Composite biopesticides: exponentially better results for effective, safe and eco-friendly pest control

Dr. Fatma Kaplan
Feb 13, 2018 · 3 min read

Everyone is aware of the unmatched strength and power of composites in engineering, from race cars to aerospace. What if we applied the composite concept to biopesticide market for agricultural pest control?

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Biocontrol organism, a ladybug, feeding on aphids

Biopesticides provide safe and eco-friendly pest control. However, they have limitations including variable efficacy, shelf life or being very specific. What if we combined two different types of biopesticide to improve efficacy and create broad spectrum while keeping the benefits? The two major segment of biopesticides include biochemicals (pheromones, plant extracts, soaps, fatty acids, attractants and repellents) and biological control organisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, insects and nematodes). Pheromones are signals that are used among many organisms (insects, fish, mammals) for social communication such as aggregating, dispersing, and finding food and mates. They are species specific, so non-target organisms are safe. However, this specificity also limits their use to mainly for baiting traps and disrupting mating. Biocontrol organisms can control a single pest or multiple pests, but efficacy and shelf life are problems. By themselves, pheromones and biocontrol organisms have limitations, but together they can make more effective and broad spectrum pest control while preserving their safety and eco-friendly benefits.

Pheronym applied the composite biopesticide concept by combining beneficial nematodes and pheromones. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic roundworms, commercially used to control insects. They are broad spectrum and can infect multiple insects; 28 important insect pests. Beneficial nematodes can control insects attacking plant roots in soil and airborne insects attacking fruits or leaves if they have a life stage in the soil. Like many biocontrol agents, they have an efficacy problem. One behavior that directly affects their efficacy is dispersing, searching and attacking insects. The dispersal and search behaviors are controlled by pheromones. Using nematode pheromones provides a safe and effective way to direct beneficial nematodes to find insects and increase their efficacy. In summary, composite biopesticides (combination of pheromones and beneficial nematodes) unlocks the use of both beneficial nematodes and pheromones and improves their effectiveness for sustainable agriculture.

Authors: Dr. Kaplan is an accomplished scientist with experience in biology and chemistry. She discovered the first sex pheromone of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and published in Nature. Then she discovered pheromones regulate other social behavior in nematodes. Mr. Karl Cameron Schiller has a BA in economics and Masters in pharmaceutical economics. Dr. Kaplan and Mr. Schiller started Pheronym to turn pheromone technology into a product and provide effective, nontoxic pest control to farmers, growers, and homeowners. We believe that farmers and consumers should have an effective, ecologically friendly option for controlling pests.

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