As human population grows the challenge is to increase food production while protecting the environment. To increase yields per arable surfaces, pesticides are heavily used for crop protection, including against insect pests. However the ubiquitous use of chemical insecticides raise issues ranging from human health concerns to links with pollinating bee population decline. Upon societal demand, recent EU legislation changes now impose reductions in chemical inputs and the market share of organic food is increasing. However pests still continue to reduce crop yields. Altogether this is driving renewed interests for the development of alternative pesticides. Insect viruses have long been recognized as safe bio-insecticides, but their commercial development was held back by their relatively slow mode of action (typically 5 days) compared to chemical insecticides. While studying genomic adaptation by in vivo experimental evolution for the ERC funded GENOVIR project, we unexpectedly selected a fast killing baculovirus strain, that we called ‘Viking’. This virus kills all infected insect in the record time of one day. We believe Viking to be highly marketable. The aims of VIBES PoC project are to prove viral production could be scaled up, while a tailor made market study will identify the applications to target for commercialization.
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