This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project proposes to develop fungal bioinsecticides for control of bark beetles in forestry. Bark beetles are difficult to control. With a life cycle mostly under tree bark, exposure to insecticides is limited to the short period when adults search for new host trees. Control of mountain pine beetle (MPB), one of the most damaging species, is limited to persistent chemical insecticides and pheromone repellents. Health and environmental issues of chemical insecticides limit use; pheromones protect individual trees but do not kill beetles. Phase I discoveries of formulation, application methods, and persistence demonstrated the safe, environmentally benign fungal pathogen Beauveria bassiana can compete in efficacy and cost against chemical insecticides. Natural biochemicals that inhibit boring and increase exposure to pathogen spores show promise for enhanced products. Phase II objectives are: 1) bring one fungal pathogen to commercial introduction; 2) develop improved fungal pathogen strains and/or boring deterrent; 3) isolate pathogen strains for other bark beetles. Field trials will provide the basis for use recommendations in MPB control. New fungal pathogens and continued development of boring deterrents will enable expanded MPB control strategies and development of products against other beetle species.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project, if successful, will be innovative biological approaches to address outbreaks of both native and introduced bark beetles. Outbreaks of unprecedented scale are being driven by climate change and global commerce. Bark beetle outbreaks are devastating forests and urban trees, and impacting timber value, urban land values, and esthetics of forested public land. Phase II will contribute to the understanding of fungal pathogen host range in different genera of bark beetles and in non-target insects. Using fungal or tree derived biochemical boring deterrents to increase fungal pathogen efficacy represents an important technical innovation for developing cost effective, more broadly useful, forestry bioinsecticides. The current MPB outbreak is devastating western forests. Phase II will provide a new tool for protecting trees from MPB attack in high value public recreation areas, private forest land, and urban landscaping. A safe and environmentally benign fungal bioinsecticide will enable new strategies for broader management of MPB. Bark beetles are a large, increasing problem in forestry with multiple outbreaks of native and introduced bark beetles. Phase II will establish the foundation for developing fungal bioinsecticides to effectively respond to this dynamic market.

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Montana Bioagriculture Inc.
United States
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