OSCII Activity C.30

Development of integrated pest management strategies for new viral biopesticides in organic crops

Activity summary

The demand for organic vegetables and fruit has increased dramatically in recent years. Currently, 40% of organic retail sales in Canada come from vegetables and fruits (COTA, 2013). The yield from organic brassica crops, however, remains inferior to that of their conventionally grown counterparts (Parsons, 2002). For example, the yield from organic cauliflower is 55% less than that from conventionally grown.  The development of new pest control methods could help to improve organic brassica yields.

Throughout Canada, the diamondback moth is a serious economic pest of brassica crops. The control of this pest in organic brassicas is threatened by the development of resistance to two of the major biopesticides (Bacillus thuringiensis and spinosad) used for their control. Other caterpillar pests, such as the cabbage looper and alfalfa looper also cause serious economic damage in brassica crops across Canada. There is currently a viral biopesticide in the process of registration for the control of cabbage loopers in greenhouse vegetable crops that could prove valuable for caterpillars in brassica field crops.

This project will aim to develop viral biopesticides from naturally occurring insect viruses for the control of diamondback moth and other caterpillar pests in organic brassica field crops. To ensure the success of these products upon registration, this project will also develop integrated pest management (IPM) programs, which utilize a combination of sustainable tools for the management of pests in organic brassica systems. 

In the first two years, a viral bank of naturally occurring insect viruses will be established by collecting caterpillars from brassica crops in British Columbia (BC) and Saskatchewan (SK). The virus with the best potential for registration will be selected based on assays to determine the pathogenicity and molecular characterization. Insect viruses infect their host when ingested and are amplified as they replicate inside their host. Production of the best virus isolate for field trials will make use of this natural amplification in the laboratory. Field trials in the last two years of the project will be used to determine the best IPM methods for the implementation of new viral biopesticides and the virus that is currently in the process of registration for greenhouse vegetable crops. Specifically, this project will determine the optimum timing, dosage, application zone, and delivery method for these new products.

This project aims to provide Canadian organic brassica farmers with alternate tools for the control of caterpillar pests. We anticipate that a new viral biopesticide will be in the process of registration by the end of this project, and that the viral biopesticide currently undergoing registration for the control of greenhouse cabbage loopers will be available to organic brassica farmers within the term of this project. In addition, the development of a virus bank will allow for the development of future viral biopesticides as needed. Taken together, the development of viral biopesticides and IPM methods which incorporate these new products will help to provide sustainable pest control options for caterpillars in organic brassicas and could help to improve the yield of these crops.

Materials and Results to Date

Activity researchers

Name Affiliation
Deborah Henderson, Activity Leader Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Martin Erlandson Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Saskatoon Research Centre
Michelle Franklin Kwantlen Polytechnic University