of China Australia Food Security Cooperation Initiative (CAFSCI)

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Utilisation of entmopathogenic nematodes to control insect pests in China

Overview of Project

Australian entomologists have developed successful techniques for biological control of agricultural insect pests using nematode/bacterial complexes. They now propose to develop these techniques further to suit the facilities, insect pests and wide range of environments in China. Entomopathogenic nematodes have the potential to control a wide range of insect pests, are harmless to other organisms including man, and have no adverse effects on the environment.

The principal aim of the project, initially for major field trials and then for general agricultural use, is to develop methods suited to China for huge-scale production of entomopathogenic nematodes, and their subsequent storage and transport. This has two major aspects: transferring existing techniques to scientists in China; and adapting these further to suit Chinese conditions. Experience elsewhere suggests that practical involvement is necessary for the successful transfer of techniques, which will take place early in the project so that nematodes can be mass-reared for other sections of the program in parallel with research into modified rearing techniques. One important investigation for rearing technology will be to find protein materials suitable for breeding media that are readily and cheaply available in different regions of China (e.g. fish offal in southern China). The very much lower labour costs in China relative to Australia may also influence rearing technology.

In order to provide enough cheap nematodes for routine agricultural use, the project should set up at least one mass-production facility.

Storage and transport of large numbers of nematodes in water suspension is not feasible because of the huge volumes that would be involved. Australian techniques rely on storage and transport with only a thin film of water present on an inert carrier, and it will be necessary to find suitable carriers that are readily and cheaply available in China.

Chinese scientists will seek to locate and identify new strains and species of entomopathogenic nematodes in China and to evaluate their effectiveness against various insect pests. The long-term goal is to find the most effective nematode for each pest; this means choosing one that has not only high infectivity for a particular pest but also suitable temperature and motility characteristics for the specific environment in which the pest occurs.

Since insect pests occupy a variety of niches (for example, in soil, within plants or on foliage), it will be necessary to develop differing methods of large-scale nematode application. And in order to ensure persistence of the applied nematode population, the scientists will need to determine the ecological factors - such as temperature and humidity and predators or pathogens - that affect the persistence, migration and infectivity of nematodes in the various habitats. This work may lead to development of strategies for minimising pathogenic effects, such as application of fungicides with the nematodes, or changes in the timing or concentration of applications.

A program of artificial selection is planned, to improve the usefulness of promising species or strains. The very short life cycle of nematodes should make it possible to improve their desirable attributes substantially by this means.

Mass production and inundative release of entomopathogenic nematodes is particularly suitable for biological control in China, because labour is very cheap there whereas chemical control is expensive. Australia will also benefit, because the conduct and evaluation of very large-scale field trials and the incorporation of nematode preparations into normal Chinese agricultural practice will afford experience in handling nematodes on a broad-acre scale. Problems of logistics can thus be identified and overcome without the vast expense this would entail in Australia. Benefits anticipated from the program are: access to an increased range of species and strains; an improved range of nematodes arising from an artificial selection program to be applied to both new and existing isolates; and improved methods of mass-rearing, storage and transport of nematodes."

Project Dates

01 Aug 1985 - 31 Jul 1988


CSIRO Division of Entomology - Australia
Guangdong Entomological Institute - China
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences - China


Dr Robin Bedding



02 6 246 4292

Launch Website