Oct 31, 2022
Biobest receives award for most innovative biocontrol product

Biobest received the Bernard Blum Award for the most innovative biocontrol product, in recognition of Pronemite (Pronematus ubiquitus) – a new category of commercial arthropod biocontrol agent that concurrently targets a key pest, and a problem fungal disease – powdery mildew.

Small, hard to access pest mites, such as tomato russet mite (Aculops lycopersici), and the fungal disease powdery mildew (Oidium neolycopersici) are two key challenges of cultivated crops.

“Pronemite is a genuine breakthrough,” Felix Wackers, Biobest research and development director, said in a release. “Pronemite is representative of a new family of beneficial mites; it’s the first effective biocontrol solution for russet mite control; the first commercialized fungal disease control using a mite; and uniquely the first commercialized biological control organism shown to simultaneously control a key pest and a problem pathogen in a protected crop. As such, it represents a whole new category of biocontrol.

“Large populations of this arthropod mite can be built up preventatively in a crop using our feed supplement Nutrimite,” Wackers said in the release. “We’ve shown that creating a ‘standing army’ of the mites in the crop can be highly effective in preventing the infection and spread of russet mite and/or powdery mildew.”

Pronemite is set to become a major game-changer in biological crop protection by eliminating the need for repeat insecticide or fungicide applications, he added. “In commercial strawberry crops, powdery mildew can necessitate 10-22 fungicide applications over a four-month cropping cycle.”

Pronemite enhances sustainable production and opens the door to the establishment of other biocontrols agents – whose full potential is currently hampered by the widespread use of pesticides.

“As such it can be a key stone in a more complete biological control program, playing an important role helping to minimize/eliminate chemical residues on produce,” Wackers said.

“In a class of its own, we’re already seeing a lot of enthusiasm for Pronemite in the marketplace,” Hanne Steel, Biobest product portfolio manager for beneficials, said in the release. “Growers like its innovative nature and are keen to further reduce reliance on crop protection chemicals.”

Learning that arthropods can effectively control diseases opens many new opportunities for biological crop protection, she said.

Almost all predatory mites commercialized for crop protection are from the Phytoseiidae family. Pronemite is from a separate superfamily, the Tydeoidea, which has a cosmopolitan distribution. With appropriate production registration Pronemite offers the potential to be used worldwide without concerns for local biodiversity.”

Biobest is collaborating with strawberry and tomato growers in Europe to optimize Pronemite performance before its widespread launch next year.

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