Location: Fruit and Tree Nut ResearchTitle: Using Beneficial Fungi for Control of Nut Crop Pests
Submitted to: West Coast Nut
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/30/2022
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: In this article the use of beneficial fungi for control of nut pests is discussed. The research presented focuses on pecan, yet other nut crops may also benefit from the approaches discussed. Due to environmental and regulatory concerns alternatives to chemical insecticide use must be sought. Entomopathogenic (aka beneficial) fungi are safe environmentally friendly biopesticides that are commercially available and used to control a wide variety of economically important insect pests in various cropping systems. Some of these fungi, including Beauveria bassiana and Cordyceps javanica can kill pecan pests such as pecan weevil and pecan aphids. The beneficial fungi are usually applied to the crop just like chemical insecticides using standard spray equipment. In an alternate approach, beneficial fungi, such as B. bassiana, can kill insect pests when living inside plants as endophytes. An endophyte is a microbe that lives inside a plant without causing disease. If the endophytic fungi protect a plant from insects or disease, then treatment costs may be lower compared with traditional spray programs. In research conducted thus far, we discovered that two commercially available beneficial fungi, B. bassiana and Metarhizium brunneum, can be established in pecan as endophytes. Once in the plant, we observed that the beneficial endophytic fungi can cause reductions in insect pest populations and plant disease severity. Additional field research is needed to explore the endophyte approach in pecan and other nut systems.