Wire Worm Research at PARC, Agassiz (Oct 2008)

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Todd Kabaluk, a research biologist in the Integrated Pest Management program at the Pacific Agriculture Research Centre (PARC), has been studying the biological control of field insect pests using microbial insecticides. Currently, Todd is working toward the use of Metarhizium anisopliae as a biological control for wireworms.

Wireworms are the larval stage of click beetles (see Figure below). They live in soil where they feed on seeds, plant roots, and other organic material. The most serious crop damage from wireworms is generally related to spring larval feeding, when developing larvae are near the surface and actively seeking seeds for their high nutritional content. Wireworm larvae locate seeds by detecting the carbon dioxide produced during germination and they can be particularly destructive of spring crop seedings. (Source: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/pestsurvey/Wireworm.htm)

Metarhizium anisopliae is a fungus that grows naturally in soils throughout the world and causes disease in various insects by acting as a parasite. It is considered to be a soil-borne insect pathogen.

Todd's current research is focusing on the effect of Metarhizium anisopliae seed treatment to increase the yield of field corn. Research to date has shown consistent increases in yield as high as 20%. For example, without Metarhizium seed treatment, there was a 60% yield on a field infected with wireworm; with Metarhizium seed treatment, there was a 80% yield. The Metarhizium seed treatment performed as well as 'Poncho' - a currently used chemical seed treatment.

The reason for this increase in yield is likely due to the Metarhizium fungus acting as a repellant to wireworms, although this is still under investigation.

The next step in this research is to carry out experiments in the lab to determine if the Metarhizium fungus was actually acting as a wireworm repellant. If not, then other factors will be considered. If it is shown that wire worms can be repelled by Metarhizium, then this will be a useful non-chemical control of wire worms. A real step forward for wire worm infected areas of the province!

Contact Information:
Todd Kabaluk
PO Box 1000
Agassiz, British Columbia V0M 1A0
Email: kabalukt@agr.gc.ca

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