Development of a Novel Microbial Biopesticide for the Control of Insect Pests
Agriculture needs new bio-rational pest control agents to replace outdated synthetic chemicals. Safer, smarter, target-specific control measures are required for use in sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) systems. New technologies are essential to IPM in high value fruit, nut, and vegetable crops where the most widely used insecticides are organophosphates (OPs) and carbamates. In 1998, 37 registered insecticidal OPs accounted for approximately 50% of the agricultural area treated by insecticides. Maize, cotton, and other row crops received 74% of the OPs, where as 26% went on fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Apples and potatoes represented 43% and 53%, respectively, of the total OP-treated acreage. Many of these pesticides face tolerance reassessment under EPA's Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). In many cases, regulatory authorities have restricted or eliminated OPs due to their high toxicity. In other cases, the registrants may have no option but to cancel certain uses, because the cost of complying with new registration requirements may not be justified by the size of the market. Loss of registered products will severely weaken or eliminate IPM programs that are built around a rotational use of different classes of chemicals with different modes of action. With fewer options available for pest control resistance to overused alternatives will build. Large acreage row crops are developing a reliance on a limited collection of Bacillus thuringiensis toxins and other transgenic protein-based events. In vegetable and tree crops, controversy and industrial consolidation have extended the event horizon and limited the deployment of transgenic opportunities. Microbial natural products offer an untapped source of agrochemical diversity. Successful products in this category, including the avermectins and spinosyns, achieved acceptance and rapidly captured market share because of their efficacy and highly specific pesticidal activities. Recent advances in industrial fermentation coupled with a rapidly expanding understanding of the genetics of secondary metabolite production are enabling a revolution in the industrial production methods for large complex bioactive molecules. Completion of Phase II SBIR research will demonstrate the commercial efficacy of a novel microbial bioinsecticide in agricultural applications. Completion of the following technical objectives are anticipated: 1) Complete isolation and characterization of the biologically active components from a Streptomycetes-based bioinsecticide, 2) Development of analytical detection methods and mode of action studies, 3) Strain improvement, 4) Fermentation process optimization at industrial scale, 5) Formulation studies, 6) Expanded laboratory and field scale evaluation of pesticidal efficacy, 7) Toxicology and EPA regulatory submission. Completion of these goals will demonstrate the commercial potential of this bioinsecticide, and provide important regulatory data necessary for EPA registration.
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