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Linguine and nematodes?

Linguine and Nematodes?

While it might not be an appealing Italian dish, a pasta combination that uses nematodes may curb insect damage to crops, plants, and lawns.

Or if you want to control weeds instead of insects, a mixture with fungi is an effective weed control formulation.

Agricultural Research Service scientists who developed this combination call it Pesta. Researchers found that when durum wheat flour called semolina - the same flour used to make pasta - is mixed with either nematodes or fungi, the result is an effective biological control of insects and weeds.

"The process is simple and relatively inexpensive," says William J. Connick, Jr., a research chemist with ARS' Composition and Properties Research Unit in New Orleans. "It can be carried out at room temperature, and it's not going to expose the people using it or handling the product to dangerous materials."

Connick obtained the biocontrol organisms that target specific insects and weeds from ARS zoologist William R. Nickle and plant pathologist C. Douglas Boyette. He blended a mixture of wheat flour, clay powder, and ingredients that benefit the organisms with a water slurry of either nematodes or fungi at Connick's lab at the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans.

After the mixture is kneaded, nematodes or fungi are trapped in a dough. Connick rolls out a thin sheet and dries it overnight at room temperature.

"The next day the dry dough is stiff and can be easily ground up," Connick says. "To get granules of about the same size, we sifted them through sieves."

Boyette and Nickle have tested the performance of the new Pesta biocontrol products.

Against hemp sesbania, a weed commonly found in soybeans, rice, and cotton, Boyette found that Pesta containing the fungus Colletotrichum truncatum completely wiped out the weed population within 7 days of application in greenhouse tests. Pesta containing other weed-killing fungi was tested against sicklepod and jimsonweed with promising results.

Pesta with Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes was tested against corn rootworm larva. Twenty-one days after greenhouse application, Nickle saw a 63 percent reduction in emergence of adults. These products may also be useful for controlling other soil insects.

Tests were conducted under environmental conditions conducive to activating either the nematodes or fungi in the granules.

"The nematodes start coming out soon after the granules get wet, releasing over 35,000 viable nematodes per gram into the soil where pest insects are present," Connick says. "After exposure to moisture and sunlight, the fungus grows and completely covers the granule like a fuzz, then releases spores, usually within 24 to 72 hours of application."

Connick is studying ways to improve Pesta's shelf life. He says when moisture-retaining chemicals are added to the formulations, they enhance the survival of nematodes during storage.

Currently, nematode granules will last at least 9 weeks with refrigeration. Fungi in pesta, however, can survive months at room temperature.

"Since the method is based on pasta production, knowledge on how to make these granules and equipment already should be available worldwide," Connick says. "And we're using renewable and biodegradable materials to make the Pesta products." - By Bruce Kinzel, ARS.

PHOTO : Chemist William Connick, Jr., rolls dough containing semolina mixed with Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes to make Pesta, a biological control product.

William J. Connick, Jr., is at the USDA-ARS Composition and Properties Research Unit, Southern Regional Research Center, 1100 Robert E. Lee Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70124 (504) 286-4527. William R. Nickle is at the USDA-ARS Nematology Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705 (301) 344-3064. C. Douglas Boyette is at the USDA-ARS Biological Control of Weeds Research Unit, Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center, P.O. Box 350, Stoneville, MS 38776 (601) 686-6253.
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Title Annotation:combining semolina with nematodes or fungi may control insects and weeds
Author:Kinzel, Bruce
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Feb 1, 1991
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