A virus control for tree-fruit pest the summer fruit tortrix moth (Adoxophyes orana) has been developed by a Swiss firm and launched onto the UK market in time for the current season.
Available via pest-control supplier Sentomol, Andermatt Biocontrol's Capex infects the moth larvae with a species-specific virus.
The control is approved for use on pome fruit crops - apple, crab apple, pear and quince - and has been granted an extension of authorisation for minor use on outdoor stone fruit crops. It has already been available to continental growers for some years.
The virus does not kill the summer fruit tortrix moths' larvae instantly but rather builds up within it as it matures, increasing the virus population sufficiently for it to persist for several generations. The first application is recommended in early spring.
East Malling Research head of entomology and plant pathology Professor Jerry Cross said: "Granuloviruses are very specific but ideal biocontrol agents that are very safe to the environment. The virus is transmitted within the population and leads to an effective control and long-term population suppression."
Capex is compatible with organic growing because it has no adverse effects on bees and other insects. It can be stored in a freezer for up to two years.
Apple pest - Bramley and Discovery at risk
Summer fruit tortrix larvae emerge in early spring after overwintering and go on to produce two generations a year in the UK.
A relatively recent UK arrival, it is particularly prevalent in east and south-east England, parts of which experienced high levels of infestation last year.
Short-stalked apple varieties such as Bramley and Discovery are thought to be the most susceptible pome fruits.