Entomopathogenic fungi, or fungi that cause diseases on insects, were among the first organisms used for the biological control of pests. However, these fungi have only been recently recognized as important in integrated pest management (IPM).
A study presented at SEARCA’s Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) on 21 June 2011 emphasized this importance. In his study, Dr. Yayan Sanjaya, SEARCA PhD Research Scholar and Senior Instructor at Indonesia University of Education, found three species of entomopathogenic fungi, namely: Metarhizium anisopliae, Beauveria bassiana, and Paecilomyces lilicanus as effective against spider mite, Tetranychus kanzawai (T. kanzawai) in papaya seedlings.
T. kanzawai is commonly found in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, it usually infests cassava and papaya plants, severely damaging even the older leaves, and sometimes, the seedlings. Its serious damage causes the leaves to dry up, thus, reducing photosynthetic activity of the plant.
Among the species, M. anisopliae isolate 5, M. anisopliae isolate 6, and B. bassiana isolate 6 proved to be effective against spider mites, having the fastest transmission of fungal infection of around two to four days. This is relatively faster than other entomopathogenic fungi that transmit infection in five days.
Using entomopathogenic fungi is an advantage in IPM as: 1) they are important natural enemies of arthropods, capable of infecting them directly through their protective layer; 2) their cultivation is easy and fairly cheap; and 3) they can be found under different ecological conditions.
According to Dr. Sanjaya, these fungi can also potentially be effective in controlling pests other than T. kanzawai.
DISCLAIMER: The point of view taken by this article is entirely that of the presenter's and does not reflect in any way, SEARCA’s position.