Premiere: Beneficial nematodes in sugar beet cultivation

Beneficial nematodes as antagonists to invasive cicadas in sugar beet cultivation – a running project in Germany will show, how it works.

Climate change promotes immigration of new pests, which then
can propagate due to the lack of natural enemies.

In addition, some insects also bring new viruses or bacteria that can damage crops to an unknown extent.
The cicada Pentastiridius leporinus is a good example of this.
This cicada originally comes from the Mediterranean region and migrated to southwestern Germany, infected with a plant-damaging bacterium.
Since the climate here already has Mediterranean temperatures and drought, hundreds of thousands of cicadas have been able to develop almost unchecked in every beet field.

They even carry the bacterial pathogens that are dangerous for sugar beet with them in their eggs.
In this way, the cicada has adapted from the reeds on rivers to beet and wheat. The harmless cicada became one of the most dangerous pests for sugar beet cultivation worldwide.

In the laboratories in Germany, natural antagonists of cicadas - on the one hand beneficial nematodes, and on the other hand bacteria and fungi isolated from sick cicadas - are tested for their effectiveness against the dangerous pests.
"We do not invent new organisms, we use nature and we want to ensure that the cicadas do not explode into the fields as has happened in large parts of southwestern Germany in recent years," explains project manager Dr. Christian Lang.
The beneficial nematodes are already being used in field trials this year, and the type of nematode we use is fortunately rushing towards the cicadas' nymphs.
In corn cultivation, the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera) is already controlled in this way today.
In many cultures worldwide, the beneficial small roundworms are used to control white grubs and black weevil larvae.
This is a first in sugar beets.