Biotech Updates

Optimal Ecology of Bioinsecticide

May 21, 2010

The commonly used and naturally occurring bacterial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) works best if applied to young plants and is enhanced by the presence of the insect pests. These findings was revealed in an article published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council-funded researchers at the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway University of London.

The researchers studied a strain called ST8, which infects the Diamondback Moth, a pest that attacks cabbages, broccoli and related crops. They found that the population of bacteria (either existing or applied) establishes itself more readily when the insects are present. ST8, existing naturally in the environment, was believed to be colonizing the plant as growing seedlings and had the earliest possible chance to infect the moths in order to survive.

Senior researcher Dr Mike Bonsall at the University of Oxford said: "Bt has been used commercially for about 40 years and is readily available to control pest moths and the like, but until now we've known very little about the natural abundance of the bacteria in the environment and what happens when we apply extra bacteria as a means of pest control. It's really important to understand what is happening so that we can, for example, know what factors might have an impact on the insects becoming resistant to Bt."

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