Mass production of entomopathogenic nematodes for plant protection
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- Ehlers, RU. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol (2001) 56: 623. doi:10.1007/s002530100711
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Entomopathogenic nematodes of the genera Heterorhabditis and Steinernema are commercially used to control pest insects. They are symbiotically associated with bacteria of the genera Photorhabdus and Xenorhabdus, respectively, which are the major food source for the nematodes. The biology of the nematode–bacterium complex is described, a historical review of the development of in vitro cultivation techniques is given and the current use in agriculture is summarised. Cultures of the complex are pre-incubated with the symbiotic bacteria before the nematodes are inoculated. Whereas the inoculum preparation and preservation of bacterial stocks follow standard rules, nematodes need special treatment. Media development is mainly directed towards cost reduction, as the bacteria are able to metabolise a variety of protein sources to provide optimal conditions for nematode reproduction. The process technology is described, discussing the influence of bioreactor design and process parameters required to obtain high nematode yields. As two organisms are grown in one vessel and one of them is a multicellular organism, the population dynamics and symbiotic interactions need to be understood in order to improve process management. Major problems can originate from the delayed or slow development of the nematode inoculum and from phase variants of the symbiotic bacteria that have negative effects on nematode development and reproduction. Recent scientific progress has helped to understand the biological and technical parameters that influence the process, thus enabling transfer to an industrial scale. As a consequence, costs for nematode-based products could be significantly reduced.