Managing Bees for Delivering Biological Control Agents and Improved Pollination in Berry and Fruit Cultivation
- Heikki Hokkanen
- Ingeborg Menzler-Hokkanen
- Marja-Leena Lahdenpera
Targeted precision biocontrol and improved pollination were studied Europe-wide in the EU ERA-NET CORE ORGANIC 2 project BICOPOLL (Biocontrol and Pollination). A case study was conducted on the management of strawberry grey mold Botrytis cinerea, with the biocontrol fungus, Gliocladium catenulatum, vectored by honey bees or bumble bees. A joint field trial carried out in five countries targeted strawberry cultivations in open field, and included four treatments: untreated control, chemical fungicide, entomovectored biocontrol, and chemical and biocontrol combined. In organic fields, no pesticide treatments were included. The proportion of moldy berries, and/or the marketable yield of healthy berries were recorded from each treatment, along with other parameters of local interest. A pilot study was started in Finland in 2006, and, by 2012, large commercial farms were using entomovectoring. In 2012, field trials were started in Estonia and in Italy, and in 2013-14, these experiments were expanded to Slovenia and Turkey. In total, 26 field tests were conducted using entomovectoring and Gliocladium catenulatum (Prestop® Mix) on strawberry, with five additional trials on raspberry. Efficacy results have been excellent throughout the field studies. The results show crop protection equalling or exceeding that provided by a full chemical fungicide program, under all weather conditions, and over a wide geographical range (from Finland to Turkey). Under heavy disease pressure, entomovectoring provided on average a 47% disease reduction, which was the same as multiple fungicide sprays. Under light disease pressure, biocontrol decreased grey mold by an average of 66%, which was greater than fungicide sprays. The concept has proven to be effective on strawberries, raspberries, pears, apples, blueberries, cherries, and grapes. A conservative estimate for Finland is that over 500 ha of strawberry cultivation currently use the technique (≈15% of the strawberry growing area). To make full use of the entomovectoring technique, organic berry and fruit growers are encouraged to (i) keep bees, or to hire the service from local beekeepers for entomovectoring; and (ii) manage vegetation within and around the target crop to support the activity of bees and other pollinators, which can help to disseminate the beneficial microbial populations within the crop. Beekeepers are encouraged to (i) market pollination and biocontrol services to fruit and berry growers, and (ii) ensure that all operations are effective in mananging bees and their microbe dissemination activity. Biocontrol product manufacturers are encouraged to further develop products and their formulations specifically for entomovectoring, because current formulations are suboptimal as they are initially optimized for other uses (e.g., mixing into the soil).
- Joan LeeEditorial Assistant