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Application of bioplastic materials in the biocontrol of agricultural pests
H. K. ABBAS (1), C. Accinelli (2). (1) USDA ARS BCPRU, Stoneville, MS, U.S.A.; (2) University of Bologna, Dept of Agriculutural Sciences, Bologna, Italy

A versatile corn starch-based bioplastic delivery system was developed for use in multiple formulations and agents. This technology was used as carriers of non-toxigenic <i>Aspergillus flavus (NTAA)</i> strains and can be adapted to current farm machinery. Granules applied to soil and plants were shown to increase the population of NTAA in soil by 88% and in corn by 93%, thereby reducing aflatoxin in corn. In field trials in the USA and Italy from 2009-12, aflatoxin levels were reduced by 70 & 80%, respectively.  This technology was also effective for applying other biological control agents (e.g., <i>Trichoderma virens</i> and <i>T. harzianum</i>) to control damping off caused by <i>Rhizoctonia solani</i> and <i>Pythium ultimum</i> in horticultural crops. Damping off was suppressed 50% to 91% in these crops using bioplastic granule formulations of these two <i>Trichoderma</i> species, demonstrating that this technology has the potential to extend biocontrol of plant disease to horticultural plants as well as in controlling aflatoxin in agronomic crops. A sprayable bioplastic-based formulation was also developed. Application of this liquid formulation containing <i>Beauveria bassiana</i> significantly reduced damage caused by the European corn borer in maize and the tarnished plant bug in cotton. Applying a formulation of spores of a NTAA strain resulted in a 97% reduction of aflatoxin contamination of maize.  These results suggest that this formulation has potential for use in improving several biocontrol agents.

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