Identifying Bug-Killing Fungi Against a Major Pest

Jenn Hoskins
23rd April, 2024

Identifying Bug-Killing Fungi Against a Major Pest

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Indonesian study finds fungi that can kill the invasive fall armyworm pest in 2-4.33 days
  • Three fungi species identified: Sarocladium strictum, Talaromyces purpureogenus, and Aspergillus terreus
  • These fungi offer a potential eco-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides for pest control in agriculture
In the agricultural sector, one of the most pressing challenges is the management of pests that wreak havoc on crop yields and, by extension, the economy. A notorious villain in this scenario is the fall armyworm (FAW), a caterpillar that has earned infamy for its ability to invade and damage a wide array of crops, leading to significant economic losses. Traditional methods of pest control often rely on chemical pesticides, which, while effective, come with a host of environmental and health concerns. This has prompted scientists to explore alternative, more sustainable solutions. The National Research and Innovation Agency of Indonesia has taken a step forward in this quest by focusing on entomopathogens—microorganisms, specifically fungi, that are pathogenic to insects and can naturally regulate their populations. Their study[1] zeroes in on identifying potential fungal allies from South Sulawesi that could be used to combat the FAW menace. Previous research has underscored the potential of fungal endophytes, such as Aspergillus terreus, in protecting plants like eggplant from pathogens and even improving their growth[2]. These findings suggest a broader application of beneficial fungi in agriculture, beyond just disease control. Similarly, entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) have been recognized for their targeted pest management capabilities, which are less harmful to non-target organisms and the ecosystem at large[3]. The Indonesian researchers' study aligns with these earlier insights, aiming to harness EPF's natural predation on pests like FAW. By identifying and designating candidate EPF from the local environment, they hope to develop a biocontrol agent tailored to the specific challenges faced by Indonesian farmers. This approach not only promises a reduction in the use of harmful chemicals but also offers a solution that is potentially more adaptable to local pest populations, which may have developed resistance to conventional pesticides. Their methodology involves isolating and identifying EPF strains from the South Sulawesi region. Once identified, these fungi are tested for their effectiveness against the FAW. This process is critical because not all EPF are equal in their ability to manage specific pests. Finding the right match could lead to a more effective and sustainable pest management strategy. Furthermore, the study builds upon the work of Indonesian researchers who have demonstrated the effectiveness of indigenous microbial consortia in controlling plant diseases like Fusarium stem rot[4]. The successful application of a microbial consortium to reduce disease severity in the field suggests that a similar approach could be effective against pests like the FAW. The use of local microbial agents, such as EPF, could provide an eco-friendly method for pest control, reducing reliance on synthetic pesticides and mitigating their environmental impact. In conclusion, the research by the National Research and Innovation Agency of Indonesia represents a promising step towards environmentally sustainable pest management. By exploring local biological resources, such as EPF, researchers are not only addressing the immediate challenge of pest control but also contributing to the larger goal of sustainable agriculture. This study, along with prior research[2][3][4], underscores the potential of leveraging nature's own mechanisms to protect our crops and, by extension, our food security and environment.



Main Study

1) Selection and molecular identification of specific entomopathogens in South Sulawesi and the pathogenicity to fall armyworm (Spodopterafrugiperda JE. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)

Published 22nd April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Biocontrol of early blight disease of eggplant using endophytic Aspergillus terreus: improving plant immunological, physiological and antifungal activities.

3) Insect-fungal-interactions: A detailed review on entomopathogenic fungi pathogenicity to combat insect pests.

4) Molecular characterization of indigenous microbes and its potential as a biological control agent of Fusarium stem rot disease (Fusarium verticillioides) on maize.

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