Bumblebees provide safe plant protection

Publication date 02.08.2011

Providing enough food for a growing world population is a major challenge. At the same time, there is increasing public concern about the toxic pesticides used to protect these crops from disease and pests. Sustainable alternatives are urgently needed.

One such solution is “entomovectoring” technology, which uses bees as pollinators and vectors of safe plant protection products.
This new technology will significantly improve yield quantity and quality, help rationalize the use of resources, increase production efficiency, and unlike most other plant protection systems, boost local biodiversity.

The bumblebee project led by Prof. Guy Smagghe has provided a convincing case study on the protection of strawberries from the grey mold Botrytis cinerea using biological control agents vectored by bumblebees. This four-year project, funded by the VUB Research Fund, FNR Luxembourg and Biobest NV in Westerlo, enabled Veerle Mommaerts to successfully defend her PhD thesis.

Since 2005, the research group Insect Physiology of the Laboratory of Cell Genetics has realized eight master theses and eleven international peer-reviewed publications. One of its most notable scientific-technological realizations is the development of a highly efficient  dispenser to vector biological control agents by bumblebees, jointly patented by the VUB and Biobest NV in early 2010.

The group continues to investigate, exploit and support the natural ecological functions of biocontrol and pollination and their integration into a safer environment balanced with sustainable agriculture. Located in the heart of Europe, it can function as a central platform for knowledge and expertise in this domain.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Laboratory of Cell Genetics
Research group Insect Physiology

Pleinlaan 2
Building F - 7th floor
B-1050 Brussels
[T] +32 (0)2 629 34 04
+32 (0)2 629 34 27
[F] +32 (0)2 629 27 59
Head: Guy Smagghe
[E] guy.smagghe@vub.ac.be
Contact research mandate: Veerle Mommaerts
[E] veerle.mommaerts@vub.ac.be