With a strong focus on innovation, Biobest’s new Eupeodes-System is a powerful new addition to its aphid control strategy. Uniquely providing dual ecosystem services - simultaneously controlling aphid infestations and contributing to pollination of several crops - Eupeodes-System is in a category of its own. Launched in June this year, it is exclusive to Biobest.
Discovered in Spain
In 2015, while conducting field trials of Biobest’s commercial hoverfly Sphaerophoria-System to control aphids in protected pepper crops, Biobest Spain R&D Researcher Antonio Robledo became aware of an additional, naturally occurring hoverfly species. More abundant than the Sphaerophoria rueppellii he was releasing, he located its larvae in aphid colonies.
Intrigued by this indigenous predator, in 2018 Antonio collected samples from organic pepper crops in Almeria and sent them to R&D Senior Scientist Apostolos Pekas - Team Leader for Beneficials in Belgium.
The hoverfly was identified as Eupeodes corollae – a widespread species, indigenous throughout Europe as well as further afield. The Beneficials team got to work to learn more about its biology and, importantly, to design and develop an efficient mass-rearing system.
Two ecosystem services
“Semi-field trials together with Rob Moerkens, Manager of Biobest´s Greenlab in Belgium, clearly demonstrated the larvae’s ability to control aphid infestations, as well as the fact the nectar and pollen-feeding adults can contribute to crop pollination,” explains Apostolos.
“So, while Eupeodes larvae are voracious aphid predators, the adults simultaneously aid crop pollination – the first proven case of a beneficial insect providing two ecosystem services. With the necessary research evidence, we had a paper published in the internationally renowned, peer-reviewed publication - Biological Control.
“Up till now, hoverfly use in IPM programmes has often been limited due to a lack of reliable mass-rearing systems,” explains Sten Boonen from the Beneficials Team. “Employing in-house knowledge, our team developed protocols for a reliable and highly cost-effective mass-rearing system for producing high quantities of quality Eupeodes predators when required.”
On completion of the initial R&D phase, commercialisation of the predator passed to the Product Management team in Belgium, led by Hanne Steel and Ines de Craecker.
“Consumer-demand for residue-free produce is growing worldwide,” explains Ines. “In addition, the continuing loss of synthetic chemical actives means aphids are becoming increasingly challenging to control. In short, the focus is on developing sustainable chemical-free alternatives to control pests such as aphids.”
“Eupeodes-System is a powerful new addition to Biobest’s aphid control strategy,” says Ines. “Lots of different aphid species commonly damage commercial glasshouse crops. Historically, aphid IPM programmes have centred on parasitoids; these tend to be highly specific, each one controlling a single aphid species.
“In contrast, Eupeodes is a generalist predator feeding on the full range of agriculturally important aphid species. Add to that the fact it also can contribute to crop pollination and it is of great interest to growers.”
In June 2019, Biobest began implementing large-scale rearing using protocols designed and developed by the Belgium-based Beneficials Team.
“By February 2020 production was well established with good yields and high quality,” explains Director of Production, Laila Khouimi. “Utilising our knowledge and experiences producing other beneficials has helped our dedicated team establish Eupeodes rearing very quickly.”
With this highly reliable and cost-effective mass rearing system in place, Biobest can deliver quality Eupeodes predators when required at a reasonable price to growers.
“New products often present challenges for the packaging team, as we have to look at the conditions – temperature, humidity etc – under which to pack and stock them,” explains Biobest Packaging Manager, Bart Peeters.
“We look at whether extra carriers, or food, are required. If we are not successful straight away, the team persists to find a way for the dispatch team to be able to deliver the product to the customer on time. Constantly innovating and learning, we’ve applied this knowledge to the new Eupeodes-System.”
Summing up Ines says: “Perfectly compatible and complementary to existing commercial biological solutions for aphid control, Eupeodes-System - with its unique dual ecosystem features - is poised to become a valuable tool helping to provide a sustainable solution to aphid control in a range of crops worldwide.”