Encapsulation of the psyllid‐pathogenic fungus Pandora sp. nov. inedit. and experimental infection of target insects
BACKGROUND: Pandora sp. nov. inedit. (Entomophthorales: Entomophthoraceae) (ARSEF 13372) is a recently isolated entomophthoralean fungus with potential for psyllid pest control. This study aimed to develop a formulation based on biocompatible hydrogel beads in order to transfer the fungus into an easily applicable form and to test the effects on psyllids. RESULTS: After encapsulation in calcium alginate beads, Pandora sp. nov. grew from the beads and discharged conidia over 12 days under optimal humidity conditions at 18 °C. Conidial number was increased 2.95-fold by the addition of skimmed milk as nutritional formulation adjuvant to the beads. The virulence of the encapsulated fungus was assessed with the two target psyllid species; the summer apple psyllid, Cacopsylla picta and the pear psyllid, Cacopsylla pyri. Beads containing skimmed milk as nutritional adjuvant led to the highest mortalities (48.3% on C. picta and 75.0 % on C. pyri). In a second bioassay, survival time of C. pyri exposed to beads containing different concentration (10, 20 or 40%) of Pandora sp. nov. was tested. The survival time of C. pyri was significantly reduced when exposed to beads containing 10% or 20% Pandora sp. nov. The median survival time was reached after 5-6 days past inoculation and the cumulative mortality for C. pyri treated with Pandora sp. nov. beads showed up to 89% mortality. CONCLUSION: The promising results of this study will ease the way for large-scale field application of a novel Pandora species in biological psyllid pest control.