Targeted precision biocontrol and pollination enhancement in organic cropping systems

Place: finland, Europe
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 758.783,00 | Period: From February 2011 To November 2014


Bee disseminated, targeted precision biocontrol, combined with enhanced pollination, has produced excellent results in studies throughout Europe. It provides organic berry and fruit growers for the first time an opportunity to control a series of difficult diseases affecting their berry and fruit crops, such as the grey mould. The method is transferable to other regions and crops, and provides equal or better protection than full fungicide program in conventional farming.  Furthermore, it requires less work and costs far less than conventional pesticides, and is compatible with and enhances the activity of natural pollinators and biological control agents. It provides opportunities to beekeepers to sell pollination and disease control services to growers, who do not want to keep bees themselves.


University of Helsinki Department of Animal Science - Finland

Lead applicant

Süleyman Demirel University and Erzincan Horticultural Research Station - Turkey

Initiative partner

Süleyman Demirel University (SDU) is a public university located in Isparta, Turkey. Established in 1992, the university, with around 70.000 students, is the second largest academic institution in Turkey. SDU is known for its programs in agricultural research, medicine, engineering, and business sciences. The university is approved by the Erasmus programme for participation and funding. SDU is a member of European University Association. Erzincan Horticultural Research Institute was established in 1987. The Institute research details are mainly related to all horticultural crops, i,e., fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, grapevines, medicinal and aromatic plants and plant protection. The Institute is established on 111 hectares of land.

Agricultural and Environment Center Association, Laboratory of Organic Agriculture - Italy

Initiative partner

The Agricultural and Environment Center Association (non lucrative association, CAA) was constituted in 1986 with the aim to develop new and low impact pest control strategies and to provide services in the field of environment protection and is funded by the Province of Bologna and by 18 municipalities. CAA is involved in research and technology transfer projects of innovative control strategies, tools and techniques, in order to improve and support the local organic and low impact agricultural productions. To this aim, CAA was funded for the development of an Organic Farming dedicated Laboratory in which research are carried on concerning the impact of agrochemicals (both approved or for organic production) on target and non-target insects, including natural enemies and pollinators. CAA has been also involved in re-naturalization projects and in studies concerning the building-up of ecological corridors both at the farm and at the landscape level to favour natural control.

Estonian University of Life Sciences, Department of Plant Protection - Estonia

Initiative partner

The Department of Plant Protection of the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EULS) is a leading institution for research, survey, monitoring, teaching and training centre for agricultural sciences in the Baltic Region in the field of plant protection. EULS has been responsible for carrying out research underpinning Government policy in areas of current public concern, such as organic agriculture programme, agri-environmental measures, rural development programmes, etc. EULS has an important place within the frame of international cooperation. Department is participating two projects related to this proposal: MASTER (Integrated pest management strategies incorporating bio-control for European oilseed rape pests – EU Framework 5 project) and ECOLOGICA (Development of central data bank on European level for the education of ecological farming advisers – EU project, promoted within the Leonardo da Vinci Programme).

Lower Saxony State Institute for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, Institute for Bee Research and Apiculture - Germany

Initiative partner

The Institute for Apiculture Celle is one of the 9 different institutes of the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (http://www.laves.niedersachsen.de). The Institute is an expertise centre for all requirements of apiculture as well as related areas such as plant protection and agriculture. Due to its work in the areas of advanced training, research and development, extending beyond its own region, the Institute has gained international recognition. The Apiculture Institute actually is working in the areas of: schools for apiarists in and beyond the region, courses for further advanced training, consulting, disease diagnostics, testing of honey quality, testing of pesticides, research and development. Within BOEL two research projects were accomplished [FKZ 03OE126 and 02OE554]. Actually the institute coordinates and accomplishes a BMELV research project within the BLE “Innovationsförderung” [FKZ 28-1-33.015-07]

The idea is to significantly improve the yield and quality of organic fruit and berry production via efficient, innovative plant protection and improved pollination, and thus, the economics of organic production. BICOPOLL brings together for the first time the fragmented research in the area, where small groups have worked on their own. We investigate, exploit, and support the natural ecological functions of biocontrol and pollination, and enhance these via innovative management. The entomovector technology contributes to improved resource use and efficiency in production, and enhances local biodiversity unlike most other plant protection systems.

The main hypothesis is that organic berry and fruit production suffers heavily from the lack of effective disease and pest management tools, as well as from inadequate insect pollination at times. This can be overcome via development of targeted precision bio-control and pollination enhancement involving honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees. We used bees to target deliver biological control agents to the flowers of the target crops to provide control of problem diseases and to improve the pollination of organic horticultural crops. BICOPOLL provided a pan-European case study on protecting organic strawberry from its most important disease, the grey mould. Moreover, we studied the efficiency of the entomovector technology via innovative research on bee management, manipulation of bee behavior, components of the cropping system, and on the plant-pathogen-vector-antagonist –system, and have investigated possibilities of expanding the use of the concept into other organic systems.

Honey bees visit diligently strawberry flowers While visiting strawberry flowers, bees will provide complete pollination resulting in large, beautiful berries. If equipped to carry - target deliver - beneficial micro-organisms into the flower, they also will protect the developing berry against the grey mould fungus.

EU is biggest producer of strawberries in the world. Grey mould is the main biotic threat to the crop, and conventional growing uses more fungicides on strawberry than on any other crop (3-8 treatments/season). Organic berry growers have no means available for controlling the disease, and suffer occasionally 100% crop losses. Biocontrol agents (BCA) have been tested by treating strawberry flowers, with poor results due to the difficulty of spraying BCA to the inflorescence at the different development stages of flowers, and at the right time to prevent grey mould growth. Bees have been experimented to spread BCA instead of spraying, but the development of this approach had not progressed to practical implementation before our project. We have provided a more systematic development of the ‘entomovector technology’, and implemented the results into practice.

Row of beehives with dispensers at the edge of a berry field Beehives equipped with 'BeeTreat' inoculum dispensers allow bees to carry and target deliver beneficial microbes to the crop to be protected

• pan-European field trials have consistently shown, using strawberry as a case study, that bee-disseminated biocontrol of the grey mould provides equal or better crop protection than chemical fungicides
• in organic strawberry, marketable yields significantly increase, often by over 50%
• improved pollination accounts for about half of the yield increases
• honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees can all be used for vectoring beneficial biocontrol microbes
• efficacy and impact of the technique can be improved by management of hives (size, location, properties), vegetation management, and optimization of dispensers and properties of the microbial preparate
• no negative outcomes on products (berries, bee-products) have been detected, nor on humans or non-target organisms
• the concept has proven to be effective on a wide range of crops, such as strawberries, raspberries, pears, apples, blueberries, cherries, and even grapewine

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Entomovectored biocontrol of strawberry grey mould shows promise Europe-wid Presentation given at the International Symposium on Crop Protection, Ghent, Belgium, 2013

The main target groups are organic strawberry growers, other organic berry and fruit growers, as well as beekeepers and their organizations. The recommendations from our project include:
• Organic berry and fruit growers are recommended to (i) keep bees, or to hire the service from beekeepers; (ii) manage vegetation within and around the target crop to support the activity of bees and other pollinators, helping to disseminate the beneficial microbes within the crop
• Beekeepers are recommended to market pollination and biocontrol services to fruit and berry growers, and to ensure that all operations are optimized for efficacy
• Biocontrol product manufacturers are recommended to develop products and their formulations specifically for entomovectoring
• Administrators are recommended to register, and to promote the registration of biocontrol products, which are needed for effective control of the target diseases and pests amenable to entomovectoring – in all countries

Flying Doctors save the crop Promotional video of the company Biobest, commercialising the project results and concept for crop protection using managed bumble bees
Red Berries go Green An article in the Helsinki University Bulletin, describing project results and relevance http://www.helsinki.fi/hub/articles/?article=86

Many participartories and end-users were involoved in this project i.e. growers, grower organizations, beekeepers, researchers, advisory services, etc, in all partner countries. BICOPOLL and BICOPOLL-NET bring together 12 research units from 10 different European countries and autonomous regions into a concerted effort to develop, and to bring into practice, improved methods of biological control and pollination services, using strawberry as the case study. The study was initiated by the strawberry growers' association in Finland, who teamed up with the specialists at the University of Helsinki to carry out a pilot study. That alone involved about 20 growers, and resulted in the CORE ORGANIC 2 project BICOPOLL, and collaboration, which in the end involved some 20 scientists and dozens of growers from about 10 countries.

Demonstrating the use of the BeeTreat dispenser Organic strawberry grower Mika Räsänen is demonstrating to a TV crew the use of the BeeTreat dispenser at the edge of his strawberry field, adding the biocontrol agent to the dispenser.

Lack of funding has been the main obstacle throughout the project. The vast majority of the R&D involved in the process has been carried out by volunteer work by the researchers, berry growers, and beekeepers - all keen to achieve the results which in the end have been obtained in the project. Powered by the enthusiasm of all participants we have been able to achieve the significant results. Also, engagement and support throughout from the biocontrol company producing the case-study antagonist Gliocladium catenulatum, has been instrumental to the project success.
The first obstacle in the project was the lack of suitable dispersers for the honey bee hive. Therefore, the coordinator of BICOPOLL designed and produced the first dispensers ('BeeTreat') himself. The model proved simple and reliable, and is now being used in many countries and is available commercially. It will require further R&D to meet needs for large-scale operations (c.f. the 'Flying Doctors' dispenser for bumble bees).

Prestop Mix biofungicide Support and collaboration of Verdera Oy, producer of the biocontrol agent Gliocladium catenulatum, has been instrumental to the success of our project

The entomovector technology contributes to improved resource use and efficiency in production, and enhances local biodiversity unlike most other plant protection systems. The main targets of the BICOPOLL project are organic strawberry growers, other organic berry and fruit growers, as well as beekeepers. The project investigated, exploited, and supported the natural ecological functions of biocontrol and pollination, and enhance these via innovative management. The entomovector technology contributes to improved resource use and efficiency in production, and enhances local biodiversity unlike most other plant protection systems. No negative outcomes on products (berries, bee-products) have been detected, nor on humans or non-target organisms. Properties of the carrier material, and the particle size of the carrier material, would need further R&D to comply better with the natural behaviour of bees.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Environmental impact of Gliocladium catenulatum Registration dossier demonstrating the environmental safety of the product Prestop Mix and its active ingredient Gliocladium catenulatum

The concept has proven sustainable and has been used by Finnish growers for 6 years (regulatory approval in 2008). Currently already over 10% of strawberry growers in Finland use the method. The excellent results from Finland could be reproduced in all countries where tests have been carried out (including Italy, Turkey, Slovenia, Estonia, and Belgium). Adoption by growers in other countries is increasing, while in most countries the method still needs regulatory approval. All project results are globally applicable, and interest in the concept has been great all around the world. We now have on-going collaborative research using these techniques and/or their modifications in Australia, and emerging collaborations in South-East Asia, South-America, the Caribbean, and South Africa. Experience in Finland also shows that entomovectoring can easily be integrated in conventional production of strawberry.

Flying doctor bees to prevent cherry disease University of Adelaide researchers are introducing a method to use bees to deliver disease control to cherry blossom, preventing brown rot in cherries.
Mynet TV Strawberry growers: http://www.mynet.com/tv/anadolu-ajansi-izle-quotdoktor-arilarquotin-destegiyle-cilek-uretimi-erzincan-vid-1931224/
University Staff Directory Dr Katja Hogendoorn
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Entomovection L'entomovection exploite la capacité des insects pollinisateurs à disséminer dans les champs et les serres des agents de controle a même temps que le pollen.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Hilfe aud der luft Bienen sollen Erdbeeren vor Krankheiten schützen/ Bees should defend strawberries from disesases

The project has been highly attractive to the general public, including mass media such as newspapers, TV, and radio. We have established a Europe-wide network of demonstration-farms, available to mass and the professional media. Partners have organized at least once per year an event at the field trial site, where the public and professional media were invited.
A significant dissemination activity is to publish a scientific book as an outcome for the project; the publishing contract has been signed (with Springer, to be included in their series "Progress in Biological Control"). In addition, a series of practical "how-to-do" handbooks/pamphlets for use by farmers in each of the participating countries is also being produced.
Highly successful model of dissemination is that project results generate business activity, e.g. spin-off companies. In BICOPOLL, a project researcher produced a PhD on the topic and then joined Biobest, resulting in the launch of their 'Flying Doctors' concept.

BICOPOLL BICOPOLL is part of an EU-ERA-NET project "CORE-ORGANIC II", combining in a unique way two key ecosystem services: biocontrol and pollination. For futher information: http://www.bicopoll.net/
Deutschlandfunk To read the article: http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/hilfe-aus-der-luft.676.de.html?dram:article_id=247359
Norden Nordic Research Network for Biocontrol and Pollination (BICOPOLL-NET). Further information: http://www.nordforsk.org/en/programmes/prosjekter/nordic-research-network-for-biocontrol-and-pollination-bicopol-net
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf CORE organic II Targeted precision biocontrol and pollination enhancement in organic cropping systems