Selection Criteria for a Microbial Pest Control Agent 31 The Most Important Selection Criteria

Which criteria are the most important in a screening study of a microbial pest control agent? In order to be able to answer this question, it is necessary to have in mind the foreseen application of the pathogen. Here we are selecting for a biocontrol agent that will be used in an inundative approach, an application, usually by spraying, that is meant to give a high mortality of the pest. It would be different when we want to apply a pathogen for long term control, as in classical biological control or for one seasonal application leading to an epizootic in the field. The decisive criteria for a pathogen that will be developed into a commercial bio-insecticide and that will be used for inundative application are:

(1) mortality:

- dose rate

- mode of action

- speed of kill

- host range

- sensitivity to abiotic factors

- persistence

(2) production efficiency

- yield

- costs

- toxicological aspects

- non-target effects

It is hard to put these features in order of importance: many of them cannot be seen as a single factor, but must be seen as a set of parameters that together will ultimately lead to a go or a no-go decision. But mortality and production efficiency are clearly the decisive factors. With a low mortality or an almost impossible to produce organism further development into a commercial product is useless. With other factors a compromise can be accepted, for instance, a high mortality with a slow kill still can be accepted in many cases. Ecological factors, such as host plant effects, effects on natural enemies, etc., are often studied in great detail by researchers. These are, of course, necessary in order to better understand the relationships between the pathogen, the target and its ecology and could improve the efficacy if we are able to incorporate these ecological factors into the application of the pathogen. This is not always possible and therefore these studies are not pivotal for the decision whether or not to develop a strain or species into a biopesticide.

Further they are often complicated, long, and expensive and it is not always realistic for a company to investigate this in an early stage of the product development.

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