Defined as "the use of living organisms (referred to as biocontrol agents or natural enemies) to prevent or reduce loss or damage caused by pests" (OILB-SROP 1973), biological control is a crop protection method used alternatively or as a compliment to other methods (chemical, genetic, mechanical and physical control).
In practice, there are three different major biological control strategies:
- Classical biological control that aims at the permanent establishment of one or several exotic natural enemies for the sustainable control of a generally exotic plant pest;
- Inoculative or inundative biological control that consists of releasing biocontrol agents at different frequencies and in different quantities in crops;
- and conservation biological control whose aim is to manage or modify the agrosystem, its surroundings or cultural practices in order to protect and enhance the presence of natural native enemies
Research topics and objectives
The implementation of these projects is based on several sequential steps:
- Inventory of the natural enemies
- Molecular characterization of biocontrol agents
- Evaluation of the rearing possibilities of the biocontrol agents
- Inter- or intraspecific comparisons of the biological features, particularly in terms of host specificity, life history traits or responses to major abiotic or biotic factors
- Validation of the efficiency of the chosen biocontrol agents in semi-field or field conditions
- Optimisation of release strategies (number, frequency, composition, positioning over time or space).
In addition to this work on the biocontrol agents, we also focus on the biology and ecology of the hosts or preys
- Molecular characterization and development of identification tools
- Rearing of the target pest as well as of non-target or substitute species
- Demography and ecology of the pestin the field.
Within the framework of this optimisation approach, the team also tries to identify and test the generic mechanisms linked to the success or failure of biological control. To do so, we establish research partnerships with more basic research.
Biological models studied
Left : Pest / Right : Biological control agents
- Chestnut gallwasp, Dryocosmus kuriphilus / Torymus sinensis
- Lepidopteran species / Trichogramma species
- Mealybugs Pseudococcus comstocki /Acerophagus malinus & Allotropa burrelli
- Olive fruit fly, Bactrocera oleae / Psyttalia lounsburyi & Eupelmus sp
- Spotted wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii / Hymenopteran parasitoids
In order to optimise our engineering approach, we must address the following issues:
- What are the main causes of failure or success for a biological control programme?
- What are the biological characteristics of an efficient biocontrol agent?
- What is the relevance of laboratory studies with regard to the in natura efficiency of biocontrol agents?
To develop or transfer new biological control methods based on the use of beneficial insects to control crop insect pests.
Scientific partnerships and financing
National partnerships: UMR INRA-CIRAD-IRD CBGP, UMR CNRS 5558 BBE.
International partnerships: EBCL (USDA-ARS USA), University of Torino (Italy)
Partnerships with organisations in the agri-food sectors: AFIDOL, AGRIBIO 06, AREFLEC, CTIFL, GRAB, etc.
Partnerships with private companies: BIOTOP, INVIVO Agro Solutions