Entomopathogenic Fungi for Control of Bemisia tabaci Biotype B: Foreign Exploration, Research and Implementation

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Prior to the global outbreak of Bemisia tabaci type B in the early 1990s, very little attention was paid to the potential of fungal pathogens for control of this whitefly. A massive foreign exploration effort was mounted in 1991 by the USDA Agricultural Research Service to collect and develop fungi and other natural enemies of whiteflies. From 1990 until 1996, dozens of trips were made by scientists from the USDA European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) in Montpellier, France specifically for the purpose of finding natural enemies of whiteflies. The countries visited by EBCL ranged from European countries bordering the Mediterranean (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus), to the Middle East (Israel, Egypt), Western Asia (Pakistan, India, Nepal), Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia) and Latin America (Argentina and Brazil). Other exploratory efforts for entomopathogenic fungi within the USA and in other foreign countries (Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan) were also undertaken by USDA-ARS personnel in Weslaco, Texas. The most prevalent fungus attacking B. tabaci in the field was Paecilomyces fumosoroseus. Fungi from whiteflies or from other insects with good activity against the silverleaf whitefly include Paecilomyces spp., Lecanicillium lecanii (=Verticillium), Beauveria bassiana and Aschersonia spp. Hundreds of isolates of these fungi were collected and shipped to the USA. Subsequent research involved screening of isolates for activity, study of factors that limited or enhanced their activity, and evaluation of candidate fungi in field and glasshouse crops. The literature on research for the development and implementation of these fungi is reviewed with recommendations for future avenues of research and development.