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In vitro liquid culture and optimization of Steinernema jeffreyense using shake flasks

  • Murray D. Dunn
  • Prasanna D. Belur
  • Antoinette P. MalanEmail author


Entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) of the families Heterorhabditidae and Steinernematidae are efficient biological control agents against important insect pests. In vitro liquid culture production technology is a key factor in the success of implementing EPNs as a biological control agent. One of the first steps of in vitro mass culture is to use shake flasks to obtain nematode inoculum for optimising and upscaling to desktop and industrial fermenters. This study was the first attempt on the in vitro liquid mass culture of a local South African isolate, Steinernema jeffreyense, in 250 ml Erlenmeyer flasks, together with their mutualistic bacteria, Xenorhabdus khoisanae. After the successful in vitro production of S. jeffreyense-inoculum, different parameters for optimizing infective juvenile (IJ) recovery (developmental step when the IJ moult to initiate the life cycle) and yield, were investigated. This includes the effect of the volume of liquid medium in the flasks, two different orbital shakers setups and the initial IJ inoculum density. With 30 ml of liquid medium the mean percentage recovery of IJ after six days was 86%, with a yield of 121,833 IJ ml−1 after 14 days, in comparison to 75% and 99,875 IJs ml−1 respectively when 50 ml of liquid medium was used. No significant difference was found between IJ recovery and yield, using different orbital shakers setups. Among the three inoculum concentrations tested (1000, 2000 and 3000 IJ ml−1), the lowest concentration gave the highest IJ recovery and yield. Pathogenicity of IJs cultured in vitro was higher than those cultured in vivo.


Entomopathogenic nematode In vitro culture Pathogenicity Shake flask Steinernema jeffreyense 



The authors would like to thank D.G. Nel, from the Centre for Statistical Consultation, Stellenbosch University, for assistance in statistical analysis. This work was supported by the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), the South African/Indian Joint Science and Technology Research Collaboration (IND150923142961), the Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP: Grant Number: TP14062571871).


This study was funded by the South African Table Grape Industry (SATI), NemaBio (Pty) (Ltd) and National Research Foundation (THRIP-TP14062571871).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human and or/animal participants

The research does not involve human participant or animals.


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Copyright information

© International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology, Faculty of AgriSciencesStellenbosch UniversityStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringNational Institute of Technology Karnataka SurathkalMangaloreIndia

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