Skip to main content

COVID-19 coronavirus information and KPU's response [Read more]

KPU Surrey Campus

You are here


Novel approaches to IPM strategies for climbing cutworm in wine grapes

Cutworm is a term that refers to numerous caterpillar species that survive in the soil overwinter and causes extensive damage to plant buds in the early spring.  Cutworms can cause significant loss of high value fruit in vineyards due to their wasteful feeding habits and attack on developing buds.  Due to the high crop value a low level of bud damage is acceptable in vineyards.  Chemical insecticide applications are typically recommended when bud damage is in the range of 2 to 4%.  However, chemical insecticides can negatively impact animal and human health, pollinators, natural enemies, fisheries, and lead to the development of resistance in insect pests.  Alternatively, biological control makes use of naturally occurring organisms, including nematodes, fungi, viruses, and bacteria that can infect and kill pests. 

The objective of our study is to examine the efficacy of nematode species and fungal isolates of Beauveria bassiana and combinations that are pathogenic to cutworm species as alternatives to chemical controls. Cold tolerant nematodes and fungal isolates would offer the most promise, since our aim is to target cutworms (Noctua comes and Abagrotis orbis) in the fall when larvae are small and most susceptible.  Laboratory trials are currently being performed at temperatures ranging from 15 to 25°C on larvae of varying size.  To date, preliminary results indicate that nematode species Steinernema feltiae is the most efficacious against cutworm species, N. comes and A. orbis at low temperatures.  Mortality of N. comes and A. orbis larvae were caused by Beauveria bassiana isolates at temperatures of 15 and 17°C; however, higher temperatures increased mortality in both species.  In addition, trials planned for 2019 and 2020 will target the use of combinations of these agents with the goal of increasing cutworm mortality.  Lastly, trials using potted grape vines will begin this summer to examine the efficacy of these biological agents as an intermediate step.  This work is the first stage in reducing the use of chemical insecticides for cutworm control in vineyards and enhancing the sustainability of management practices. 


A Biocontrol Strategy with New Products for Cutworm Pests in High Value Turfgrass

There are many chemical insecticides available for cutworm control in turf, however biological products remain scarce. With this project, we studied the in vitro efficacy of three commercially available nematode species, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, Steinernema carpocapsae, and S. feltiae and native Beauveria bassiana isolates which are showing efficacy against cutworm pests of wine grapes. Our research focused on two invasive Noctua species (N. comes and N. pronuba) which are invading a number of crops and turfgrass sites in Canada. A strategy involving combinations of entomopathogens applied during the pest periods of vulnerability could provide the best and most cost-effective cutworm control in turfgrass. The results showed promise for a biocontrol strategy for invasive cutworm species in turfgrass, even at low temperatures, which will make the new B. bassiana products and S. feltiae more useful for spring and fall applications when these cutworms are active. That all isolates of B. bassiana and all species of nematode were efficacious against both species at warm temperatures, suggests both could be used against summer active cutworm species as well. This work will be used to support registration of new B. bassiana isolates in Canada by demonstrating expanded insect pest sensitivity to the fungus. This study will also be used to plan field trials with these biological tools in turfgrass to further develop a viable biological control strategy.

Funding for this project has been provided by Industrial Research Assistance Program of the National Research Council of Canada.


New Fungal Biopesticide Development Using the Beneficial Entomopathogen, Beauveria bassiana

Beauveria bassiana, one of the most successful entomopathogenic fungi, kills a broad range of insect pests. Beauveria spores attach to the surface of host insects and germinate to form a structure called an appressorium which allows the fungal mycelia to penetrate the cuticle of the insect. The fungus then uses the insects’ nutrients, causing death. Within a few days, the Beauveria sporulates on the surface of the dead insect, and subsequently spread in the environment to other insects. Since 2011, the research team at the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture has been working with various native isolates of this fungus, to develop a new fungal biopesticide that will eventually be registered by PMRA (Pest Management Regulatory Agency) for use in Canada.

In 2016, the efficacy of two isolates originating from climbing cutworm in BC’s Okanagan region, and several isolates from the coastal area of BC were investigated against four lepidopteran pests. Direct contact and residual toxicity as well as LT50/90 and LC50/90 were used to evaluate the isolates against two common Lepidopteran pests, Diamond back moth (Plutella xylostella) and Cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni), as well as Noctua comes and Abagrotis orbis - two damaging climbing cutworm species in vineyards. The ability to mass produce the Beauveria isolates was also investigated. This phase of the research was financially supported by BC Wine Grape Council and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

In 2017, the second phase of the research assessed the potential of the Beauveria isolates to control cabbage looper in the field, and green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) in the greenhouse. In addition, toxicity studies on two non-target organisms, namely duckweed (Lemna minor), an aquatic plant and a beneficial parasitoid wasp, Trichogramma sibericum were carried out, to provide data for eventual registration. Production optimization trials were continued for registration purposes. The results indicate the Okanagan and coastal isolates of B. bassiana have excellent potential to control Lepidopteran horticulture pests in addition to being safe for the environment. The second phase of the research was financially supported by the BC Wine Grape Council and BC Investment Agriculture Foundation.


Development of a New Bio Fertilizer-Fungicide Using Insects’ Waste Products

The larvae of the Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens, are common detritus feeders in compost where they consume food and crop wastes and produce “frass” (excrement), which can be used in organic crops as a biofertilizer-fungicide. Frass contains many essential nutrients for plants, including nitrate, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, boron and molybdenum. In addition to its high organic nutrient profile, frass is comprised of chitin (chitinous exoskeletons from insect moulting), and also has a unique beneficial microbial community (e.g., Pseudomonas spp. and Bacillus spp.). Frass has demonstrated activity against fungal, bacterial, and viral plant diseases, and can be used as a soil amendment for suppression of soil borne plant diseases. The first phase of this research (2013-2014) explored the potential for blending frass and chitin together as a biofertilizer, and studying its suppressive effects on plant pathogens in vitro. A partnership between the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture and Enterra Feed Corp. was established.


The second phase of research (2017-2020) has two overall objectives:


Development a new bio-fertilizer product based on insect frass bioproducts for hydroponic growing systems and organic agriculture

 Evaluation of the frass chitin and microbial community components’ potential to suppress plant pathogens and determine how to best use frass in new bioproducts



From Waste to Clean Food:

This project is a collaboration between the ISH Greenhouse and Simon Fraser University’s Lab for Alternative Energy Conversion (LAEC). This project aims to address some of the pressure being applied to our current food production system from global weather pattern change, pollution, and a rapidly growing world population. The LAEC is looking at growing food and medicine in an engineered environment, such as closed greenhouses for optimum and reliable plant growth year-round. With an estimated 60% of the energy produced globally converted to waste-heat, this research program aims to develop and test greenhouse equipment that utilizes waste-heat driven technologies, accelerating the development and commercialization of the needed technologies for sustainable closed greenhouses.


Biological demand Extended Efficiency Fertilizer:

This project is in partnership with Lucent BioSciences Ltd. and the intention is to explore the value of a proprietary natural carrier system which retains plant nutrients in the root zone and available as the plant demands. Such a carrier has the potential to prevent loss of nutrients required by food crops during flooding and weather events which normally leach nutrients out of the root zone. The project will evaluate the longevity of the natural carrier in horticultural media under various conditions with 3 diverse crop types, the response of each crop to a range of concentrations of a representative micronutrient, Manganese, and compare its mode of action to industry standard chelated Manganese.


Evaluation of Concentric's Biological Optimizer product Synergro on yield and fruit quality in an established blueberry field planting:

Currently in the second year of study, this project explores the value of a novel microbial consortium product, Synergro, for propagation and field production of high bush blueberries in BC.

Rachel & Ben in Blueberry Field    Rachel marking at Blueberry field


Registration of two ISH Trichoderma isolates as a Microbial Pest Control Product with Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Canada (PMRA)

 The Biocontrol Registration team works to build thorough Registration packages on sustainable alternatives to traditional agricultural practices and pest management strategies. Since 2016, we have been working with two promising isolates of Trichoderma that are native to the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia. We are providing the PMRA with literature reviews that span broad topics about Trichoderma such as antagonism, modes of action, secondary metabolite production, environmental fate and quality control for mass spore production. We also focus on the minute and intricate details of product risk, morphological and molecular identification and ecological interaction.

Mass production of the spores from these two Trichoderma isolates is a critical element of this research, and we are currently investigating ways for optimizing production.  Two-stage fermentation using liquid culture to inoculate solid substrate (e.g. rice, sorghum, wheat, etc) is the current method used for production.  The effects of choice of substrate, length of liquid culture incubation, presence of light during sporulation, as well as harvesting and long term storage are being studied.

Our research team works directly with the Institute’s culture collections and our industry partner to develop and coordinate research both in the lab/greenhouse and at the nursery. Not only are these topics crucial for supplying the PMRA with health and safety information meant to protect workers in the field, but also provides students at the Institute with the rare opportunity to perform extensive applicable research: from the lab to commercial agriculture.


Development of Integrated Pest Management Strategies for New Viral Biopesticides in Organic Crops

Biopesticides that make use of naturally occurring insect viruses remain underutilized for pest control in agriculture, despite the advantages of being non-toxic to humans and other non-arthropods, suitable for organic farming, require no pre-harvest interval and high potential for long-term pest control due to secondary cycling. In Canada, only a few viruses are registered for forest and agricultural pests.   Most recently in 2015, the baculovirus product, Loopex was registered by Canadian company, Sylvar Technologies Inc. for the control of cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni) in greenhouse vegetables.


The cabbage looper, along with other caterpillar species (diamondback moth and imported cabbageworm) are major pests of brassica crops (ex. broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts), many of which are grown organically in Canada with inferior yields to conventionally grown brassicas.  Resistance to the mainstay product, DiPel (Bacillus thuringiensis) threatens the control of caterpillars in organic brassicas. 


Project objectives:

  1. Determine the efficacy of Loopex for the control of caterpillars (cabbage looper, diamondback moth, and imported cabbageworm) found in brassica field crops.
  2. To supply efficacy data to aid Sylvar Technologies in the expansion of registration of the Loopex product for field vegetable crops.
  3. Develop an integrated pest management strategy (IPM) that incorporates Loopex for the control of caterpillars in brassica crops.

We performed a series of small plot trials on the KPU Langley campus and a large scale field trial at the Tsawwassen Farm School over a five year period.  From these trials, we have identified that Loopex provides control of cabbage looper larvae, however is not effective at suppressing other caterpillar pests (diamond back moth, imported cabbage worm).  Spray applications of Loopex combined with DiPel in a tank mix and weekly alternations of these two products provide significant suppression of the caterpillar complex on brassica plants and should be included in future IPM strategies for organic brassica crops.

This joint project between ISH and Sylvar Technologies Inc. concluded in the spring 2018.  This project was part of the Organic Science Cluster II, initiated by the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, Dalhousie University and the industry applicant, the Organic Federation of Canada. 


**Also link to the Organic Science Canada magazine article



Seaweed Extract (Microcystis integrifolia) as a Biostimulant in Horticulture

Biostimulants for crop management are gaining increased attention with continued demand for increasing crop yield. Seaweed extracts represent one category of biostimulant, where Microcystis integrifolia extracts are widely used for yield and quality enhancement in crops. Seaweed extract is being used as a biostimulant due to the presence of plant growth regulators. Our study investigates how different concentrations of M. integrifolia affect plant mRNA transcriptomes, using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Seaweed extract was also used in combination with auxins and cytokinins to develop an efficient protocol for in vitro regeneration of Coleous plant.


Evaluation of spark Treatment on Eliminating Pathogens and Pests on Greenhouse Surfaces.

 From 2014 to 2015, Spark treatments were applied in our research greenhouse for disinfecting bacterial and fungal pathogens, including Botrytis cinerea, Pythium ultimum, Fusarium oxysporum, Pseudomonas syringae, and Clavibacter michiganensis sub sp. Michiganensis. Insect pests including thrips, spidermites, white flies, and crickets were also used for the investigation.