Capsules containing entomopathogenic nematodes as a Trojan horse approach to control the western corn rootworm

Hiltpold, Ivan ; Hibbard, Bruce ; French, B. ; Turlings, Ted

In: Plant and Soil, 2012, vol. 358, no. 1-2, p. 11-25

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    Aims: The use of entomopathogenic nematodes in the biological control of soil insect pests is hampered by the costly and inadequate application techniques. As a possible solution we evaluated a nematode encapsulation approach that offers effective application and may possibly attract the pest by adding attractants to the capsule shell. Methods: Heterorhabditis bacteriophora nematodes, which show high virulence against the maize root pest Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, were encapsulated in a polysaccharide shell derived from the algae Laminaria ssp. Shells of varying thickness and composition were evaluated. Results: Nematodes readily survived the encapsulation process and were able, varying with shell thickness and temperature, to break through the shell and subsequently infect hosts. The added attractants and feeding stimulants to the shell attracted the pest larvae as much as maize roots. In field trials, encapsulated H. bacteriophora nematodes were more effective in controlling D. v. virgifera than those sprayed in water over the soil surface, but in these trials the addition of stimulants did not increase the control efficiency. Conclusions: The study demonstrates that nematodes can be successfully applied in capsules in the field. Further improvements are needed to make the capsules a cost effective alternative to conventional field application of nematodes