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BIOLOGICAL CONTROL

Though the use of chemical pesticides has improved the product ion in agriculture and forestry it has also damaged the environment and contaminated the food by accumulation of pesticide residues. Therefore, alternatives of these detrimental chemical pesticides are the direct use of some microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, viruses, called biocontrol agents, to control mostly the insects, pests and occasionally the disease causing pathogens or weeds in agriculture. These are basically naturally occurring disease causing microorganisms or predators of the weeds or pests.

(i)Bioinsecticides: The most successful biocontrol agent is the spores (or crystalline proteins) of Bacillus thuringiensis that produce toxic proteins against the insect pests and are highly specific in their activity. The commercially available preparation contains a mixture of spores, crystal proteins and a carrier material. The toxic protein activity does not persist in the environment long and disappears after 1-2 days of application. Moreover, these toxic proteins are highly specific and do not affect the non-target organisms. Certain genetically modified bacteria, e.g., Clavibacter containing B. thuringiensis cry gene, are used to protect the crop plants against insects.

Many viral (like, bacculoviruses) and fungal (e.g., Hirsutella sp. for Citrus mites) biopesticides are available in the market.

(ii)Bioherbicides: Fungal pathogens of the weeds are most attractive commercially used weed control agents, e.g., Phytophthora sp., Collectotrichum sp. etc.

(iii)Disease Control: Both bacteria (e.g., Agrobacterium radiobacter) and fungi (e.g., Trichoderma sp. to control soil borne fungal pathogens) are commercially used to control many plant diseases. Certain genetically modified bacteria, (e.g., Pseudomonas containing chitinase gene from Serratia) are used against some fungal diseases (fungal cell wall is made of chitin, which gets dissolved by the enzyme chitinase).

Unlike chemical pesticides, biopesticides are cheaper and do not leave harmful residues to contaminate food and fodder and to pollute the environment and do not destroy non-target species, as they are highly specific. Moreover, insects are not develop resistance to biopesticides.