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Optimising biological control of a dominant weed in major crops

Contract nr: FAIR-CT97-3525
Project nr: 3525
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/01/1998
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 932,070 EUR
EC Contribution: 550,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Richard HARDWICK
Research topic: Plant health

Fat-hen is the most abundant - and one of the most competitive - weeds in Europe. Substantial reductions of herbicides are possible if this weed can be controlled biologically. Considerable progress in the biological control of fat-hen by Ascochyta caulina has already been made. Under appropriate field conditions, the fungus kills 60-70 % of young seedlings, and substantially reduces the regrowth of surviving plants. Related crop plants are not attacked. For practical application, two major challenges remain: to increase the activity of the fungus on fat-hen for sufficient activity in less competitive crops (e.g. sugar beet), and the activity should vary less with outside weather conditions.

The objectives of the research are:
1) to optimise biological control of the weed fat-hen (Chenopodium album) in maize, sugar beet and cabbage crops by applying the fungus Ascochyta caulina as a microbial herbicide;
2) to integrate biological control in traditional weed management systems.

Fourteen research tasks were formulated to increase the activity of Ascochyta caulina, to reduce its dependency on environmental conditions, and one to implement biological control in traditional weed control systems. To increase the activity of Ascochyta caulina, the genetic variation in the virulence of the fungus will be fully explored by searching and testing new isolates throughout Europe. To ascertain that selected isolates will be active under different climatic conditions and in a range of different crops in Europe, the activity of the most promising novel isolates will be tested under different environmental conditions and plant developmental stages. Specific attention will be given to improving the reliability of Ascochyta caulina under relatively dry conditions. The requirements to overcome the dependency on high air humidity will be met by adequate formulation and optimising spraying techniques. The two or three most promising new isolates of Ascochyta caulina will be tested in major crops in different regions of Europe, in combination with traditional measures to control other weeds in these crops. It is expected that, based on the results, the private industry involved in this project will further develop and commercialise Ascochyta caulina into a microbial herbicide.


Wageningen University and Research Center
Bornsesteeg 65
NL-6700 AA Wageningen
Tel.: +31 317 47 59 29
Fax: +31 317 42 31 10


    The Norwegian Crop Research Institute
    N-1432 AAS
    Tel.: +47 64 94 93 15
    Fax: +47 64 94 92 26

  • Michael GREAVES
    University of Bristol
    Department of Agricultural Sciences
    IACR-Long Ashton Research Station
    Weston Road
    UK-BS18 9AF Long Ashton Bristol
    Tel.: +44 1275 54 93
    Fax: +44 1275 39 40 07

  • Wendy SEEL
    University of Aberdeen
    St. Machar Drive
    UK-AB24 3UU Aberdeen
    Tel.: +44 1224 27 26 91
    Fax: +44 1224 27 27 03

  • Peter Julian O'CONNELL
    Novartis Crop Protection AG
    CH-4002 Basle
    Tel.:+41 616 97 74 26
    Fax: +41 616 97 68 55

  • Maurizio VURRO
    Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
    Viale Einaudi 51
    I-70125 Bari
    Tel.: +39 08 05 48 60 37
    Fax: +39 08 05 48 60 63

  • Antonio EVIDENTE
    Universita di Napoli "Federico II"
    Via Universita 100
    I-80055 Portici
    Tel.: +39 08 17 88 52 24
    Fax: +39 08 17 75 51 30
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