Entomopathogenic Nematodes: Insect biocontrol agents
Protection of crop plants from various pest and disease causing organisms is largely dependent on the use of chemical compounds which are toxic to non target organisms and environment. This coupled with its degradation products in environment and human health, strongly necessitates the search for new harmless means of pest control. Entomopathogenic nematodes are one such organism, which parasitize and kill the insects within a short span of 24-48hrs with the help of symbiotic bacteria. Among 23 nematode families, EPNs belongs to two families Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae, which have association with bacteria of the genera Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus, respectively. These nematodes have been used successfully as biological control agents of wide range of insect pests, including a variety of caterpillars, worms, borers, grubs, crane fly, thrips, and beetles, etc. Entomopathogenic nematodes have negligible effects on non target insects and are regarded as exceptionally safe to the environment. These EPNs have the potential to become a good biocontrol agent, if locally isolated and formulated.