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Annu Rev Entomol. 1999;44:257-89.

Assessment of the application of baculoviruses for control of Lepidoptera.

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Embrapa-National Soybean Research Center, C postal 231, Londrina, PR 86001-970, Brazil.


Baculoviruses, among other insect viruses, are regarded as safe and selective bioinsecticides, restricted to invertebrates. They have been used worldwide against many insect pests, mainly Lepidoptera. Their application as microbial pesticides, however, has not met their potential to control pests in crops, forests, and pastures, with the exception of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus of the soybean caterpillar (Anticarsia gemmatalis), which is used on approximately 1 million ha annually in Brazil. Problems that have limited expansion of baculovirus use include narrow host range, slow killing speed, technical and economical difficulties for in vitro commercial production, timing of application based on frequent host population monitoring, variability of field efficacy due to climatic conditions, and farmers' attitudes toward pest control, which have been based on application of fast-killing chemical insecticides. Farmer education regarding use of biological insecticides and their characteristics is considered one of the major actions necessary for increased use of baculoviruses. Strategies to counteract some of the limitations of baculoviruses, especially their slow killing activity, have been investigated and are promising. These include the use of chemical or biological substances added to virus formulations and genetic engineering of the viruses themselves to express insect toxins or hormones. Such strategies can enhance viral activity and increase speed of kill as well as reduce larval feeding activity. The use of baculoviruses against Lepidoptera is reviewed, with the utilization of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus of A. gemmatalis in Brazil serving as a case-study.

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