A project which aims to help develop a sutiable bio-pesticide for cabbage stem flea beetle, is looking to recruit farms as guinea pigs.

Funded by a grant from Innovate UK, the Agri-Tech centre Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) is working in collaboration with CAB International (CABI) and Russell Bio Solutions (with input from H and T Bioseed), to provide farmers with a much-needed alternative to the now banned neonic insecticides for cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB), especially in the light of increasing resistance to pyrethroids .

Oilseed rape has for many years been the third largest arable crop in the UK, after wheat and barley. However, in 2019 the amount of OSR grown in the UK fell to 1.75m tonnes, down 12.9% from the 2m tonnes grown in 2018. This was the lowest national crop in five years, due in part to the increasing prevalence of CSFB.

That means the estimated cost of CSFB to growers in 2019 was £79m. With limited management tools left to control CSFB there is a market opportunity to develop a bio-pesticide.

The work to develop different formulations of a fungal bio-pesticide to target CSFB in OSR hopes to progress into developing a scale up process. A focus on end-user engagement will run alongside this development work, with two knowledge transfer workshops.

The first will focus on the aim and objectives of the project, while the second will cover dissemination of results and technology adoption. In addition, end-user feedback will be gathered using a market survey to ensure the project is aligned to end-user needs.

The end result of this project have the potential to significantly impact the UK economy by helping farmers increase yields through enhanced CSFB control, said researchers. It will also work towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040 through development of targeted biopesticides application systems.