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Bacillus thuringiensis as an alternative for Coleoptera pests

Coleopterans, commonly known as beetles, comprise the largest number of species within the Insecta class. Due to their feeding habitats, several coleopteran species are found causing severe damage to agriculture, mainly in cultivated plants and storage products, hence generating important economic losses worldwide.

Coleoptera as Enemies of Agriculture

 Some of the most relevant families of interest in agriculture and storage products are Chrysomelidae, Tenebrionidae, Curculionidae, and Scarabaeidae. Some examples of the most damaging crops are species from the Chrysomelidae family, such as Western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) in maize, mainly in the United States, Canada, and India.

The control of this coleopteran pest is difficult due to the larval stages attacking the radicular system. Another pest of this family that causes significant damage is the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), a principal pest in potato crops that also feeds on other Solanaceae crops. Larval and adult stages feed on the leaves of plants, damaging the crop by defoliation.

Transition to more sustainable control tools

Since the middle of the 1940s, the use of synthetic chemicals has been a conventional practice to combat pests in agriculture, forestry, and public health. Chemical pesticides are known for having a wide spectrum. Additionally, the side effects of these treatments have harmful consequences for human health and the environment (wild fauna, beneficial organisms such as pollinators, plants, etc.).

For all these reasons, governments across the globe felt the need to start regulating the use of chemical-based products. A good example is Directive 2009/128/EC from the European Union, which established a framework to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides. It also incentivizes the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and non-chemical alternatives to pesticides.

Therefore, the need for safer, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly alternatives has never been greater. Biological-based solutions have gained popularity in IPM programs due to their biocidal properties, scalability, and overall safety. A good example are solutions based on the entomopathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which forms a resistance spore during the stationary phase of growth and a parasporal crystal that is comprised of diverse proteins with insecticidal activity.

Bacillus thuringiensis as an alternative to control this type of pest

As abovementioned, Bt is known for producing a wide number of proteins that are specific against insect species from different orders, such as Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera. The best known crystal Bt proteins with activity against coleopterans are the Cry3, Cry7, Cry8, Gpp34/Tpp35 and Mpp23/ Xpp37.

In addition, Bt produces some other insecticidal factors specific to coleopteran pests such as the secreted insecticidal proteins (Mpp5), or the binary Vpb1/Vpa2 proteins. Some of the Bt-based products that can be found in the market are biological pesticides in which active matter is based on Bt morrisoni strains or Bt crops expressing coleopteran active proteins.

How do we deal with these pests at Bioinsecis in an effective way?

To provide the market with new Bt-based solutions, Bioinsectis is in possession of a microbe library of more than 600 fully sequenced wild-type strains, which are a source of novel genes and combinations of insecticidal proteins. These will help craft solutions to some of the most prevalent problems in crop protection today.

 

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