Wed, Dec 16, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Biological control agents developed to combat strawberry pests, council says

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

The Council of Agriculture said it has developed biological control agents to help strawberry growers manage pests and diseases, as well as a pesticide test kit that can screen hundreds of chemicals within a short period of time.

Intensive use of pesticides is common in strawberry farms to ensure year-long harvests, making the fruit a high-pesticide-residue crop, Miaoli District Agricultural Research and Extension Station director Lu Hsiu-ying (呂秀英) said.

Aphids, spider mites and Oriental leafworm moths are some of the more common pests that feed on strawberries, causing mold, deformation, underdevelopment and low yields, Lu said.

The station selected and bred predatory insects that are considered to be natural enemies of those pests: green lacewing, insidious flower bug and a species of stink bug, Eocanthecona furcellata, which has been widely used by organic farms, Lu said.

The stink bug can also be used to control pests that invade leaf vegetables and cabbage, as the bug feeds on butterfly and moth larvae that generally live on plants.

The station has developed methods to mass produce the three predatory insects and has transferred the patented technologies to biotech companies for commercial production, Lu said.

The station has also developed a biopesticide with a species of probiotics that can significantly reduce the occurrence of strawberry blight by 73 percent.

The Bacillus amyloliquefaciens was selected as the basis of the biopesticide after the station tested more than 300 different bacteria, as the probiotic could kill harmful germs and boost the immunity of strawberries, Lu said.

The biopesticide can also be used on other crops, Lu added.

Meanwhile, the council’s Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute said it has developed a pesticide fast screening kit that is able to extract chemical residues within a minute, which is 40 times quicker than the fastest existing technology.

Samples extracted with the kit can be analyzed using a spectrometer to detect more than 400 kinds of agricultural chemicals, the institute said.

The technology can speed up food inspection to create a safer environment for consumers, with a global business potential of up to NT$6.6 billion (US$199.8 million) over the next decade, the institute said.

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