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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Ithaca, New York » Robert W. Holley Center for Agriculture & Health » Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #332072

Research Project: Management and Biology of Arthropod Pests and Arthropod-borne Plant Pathogens

Location: Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research

Title: Seeking stability for research and applied uses of entomopathogenic fungi as biological control agents

item Humber, Richard

Submitted to: Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/20/2016
Publication Date: 9/26/2016
Citation: Humber, R.A. 2016. Seeking stability for research and applied uses of entomopathogenic fungi as biological control agents. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology. 19:1019-1025.

Interpretive Summary: This invited review paper amplifies comments made at the 2016 conference of the Korean Society of Applied Entomology, and deals with several diverse subjects that affect the ability of fungal biologists, entomologists, and other scientists to work meaningfully with the fungi that are pathogenic to insects and other invertebrates. The applicability of the types of ‘stability’ discussed here are pertinent for basic and applied studies on entomopathogenic fungi, and include: (1) the availability and the services offered by the major culture collections holding these fungi; (2) issues that seem to have limited the registrations and practical uses of insect-pathogenic fungi throughout the world to a tiny handful of pathogens with very broad host spectra while also suggesting that there are innumerable other pathogens that are highly specific to their hosts that might be exploited using wholly different strategies for their use than for the mass spraying approach with these other few registered fungus-based products; and, (3) a series of issues involving the effects of newly installed rules of nomenclature that are forcing losses of many long-established fungal genera and imposing new and unfamiliar taxonomies onto the groups of fungi that include the few fungi that are in global use (as noted above). This effort to reclassify fungi also prompted a need to discuss some serious but little recognized difficulties inherent with the increasing global dependence on genomic information for identifying fungi and revising their taxonomies.

Technical Abstract: Future progress in research with entomopathogenic fungi depends on a number of diverse considerations that help to stabilize the state of knowledge while supporting research about the documentation of the biodiversity and systematics of these fungi as well as those studies about their actions as pathogens of major and minor pests, and even as biological curiosities rather than as serious agents for use in biological control. This review considers: (1) the role of service culture collections in culturing, preserving, and providing essential germplasm resources of these fungi for any and all research purposes; (2) whether there is too much stability in the current spectrum of entomopathogenic fungi actually being used in a practical sense and of possible alternative strategies to exploit more fungal entomopathogens; and, (3) the diverse and far-reaching impacts of new nomenclatural rules that are constricting the pool of names applicable to entomopathogenic fungi while also stripping away their underlying taxonomic concepts that have long guided our interpretation and understanding of these fungi at a time when so many more taxa are being recognized. Some urgent problems underlying the shift from traditional to genomically based taxonomic approaches and issues about the rapidly growing mass of genomic data are also discussed.