The development of effective biological control agents against pests, can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for chemical pesticides and contributes greatly to the implementation of programs of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and, consequently, to develop an agricultural activity sustainable and to improve safety and quality agrifood. Bio-insecticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are a safe and effective method for the control of many agricultural and forest pests and represent 95% of bio-insecticides marketed worldwide. Moreover, Bt genes which codified pesticidal proteins have been implented in transgenic crops for pest autoprotection. In addition, entopathogenic viruses (mainly baculovirus) have been prepared in specific formulations and used to control lepidopteran pests.
Some advantages of using these pathogens in the fight against insects are, on the one hand, their specificity, since one can target the insect pest without affecting the populations of beneficial insects and, on the other hand, they are innocuous to organisms other than insects, including humans. These characteristics make these insecticides a resource very appreciated from the standpoint of the organic farming. Actually, they are of the very few insecticides allowed in this type of agriculture.
New pesticide formulations are required to broaden the current protection spectrum and also to combat the ever arising problem of insecticide resistance. The continuous use of pesticides eventually select for resistance genes in the treated populations. In fact, as with chemical insecticides, resistance to Bt and to baculovirus have also evolved in insect populations heavily treated with this type of microbial insecticides.
This aspect of our research is the one with the highest application to the industrial sector. We have collaborative projects with the most relevant laboratories and companies in the field, both within and outside Spain. Our research is focused to control the most damaging lepidopteran pests in greenhouse and the open field, such as Spodoptera exigua, Helicoverpa armigera, Ostrinia nubilalis and Plutella xylostella. Our University provides us with the facilities that allow us to work in this filed of research and our laboratory has become a reference laboratory in this topic.
Our main projects in
this area are
Llopis-Gimenez, A., R. Maria Gonzalez, A. Millan-Leiva, M. Catala, E. Llacer, A. Urbaneja, and S. Herrero. 2017.Novel RNA viruses producing simultaneous covert infections in Ceratitis capitata. Correlations between viral titers and host fitness, and implications for SIT programs. J Invertebr Pathol 143: 50-60.
Jakubowska, A. K., R. Nalcacioglu, A. Millan-Leiva, A. Sanz-Carbonell, H. Muratoglu, S. Herrero, and Z. Demirbag. 2015. In search of pathogens: transcriptome-based identification of viral sequences from the pine processionary moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa). Viruses 7: 456-479.
Ruiz de Escudero I., N. Banyuls, Y. Bel, M. Maeztu, B. Escriche, D. Muñoz, P. Caballero, and J. Ferré. 2014. A screening of five Bacillus thuringiensis Vip3A proteins for their activity against lepidopteran pests. J. Invertebr. Pathol. 117: 51-55.
Palma, L., C.S.Hernández-Rodríguez, M. Maeztu, P. Hernández-Martínez, I. Ruiz de Escudero, B. Escriche, D. Muñoz, J. Van Rie, J. Ferré, and P. Caballero. 2012. Vip3C, a novel class of vegetative insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78: 7163-7165.
Chakroun, M., Y. Bel, S. Caccia, L. Abdelkefi-Mesrati, B. Escriche, and J. Ferré. 2012. Susceptibility of Spodoptera frugiperda and S. exigua to Bacillus thuringiensis Vip3Aa insecticidal protein. J. Invertebr. Pathol. 110: 334-339.