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Ground beetles and parasitoids can protect rapeseed

Natural enemies are partnering up with modern technology to replace insecticides in order to control pests in rapeseed in a new project that includes researchers from Aarhus University.

[Translate to English:] Insekter skal bruges i kampen mod insekter i raps. Et nyt forskningsprojekter ser nærmere på metoden. Foto: Janne Hansen
[Translate to English:] Insekter skal bruges i kampen mod insekter i raps. Et nyt forskningsprojekter ser nærmere på metoden. Foto: Janne Hansen

Rapeseed is a widespread crop in Denmark, but is easily affected by pests such as pollen beetles and cabbage-stem flea beetles. It is often necessary to use pesticides to keep the harmful insects at bay. However, these rapeseed pests have their own natural enemies in the insect world, and a new research project will be taking advantage of these natural enemies. The project will develop a new and efficient method for bringing the beneficial insects out to the rapeseed fields and thereby boost their natural populations. 


Natural enemies to be put to work


The project, which is led by the company Ecobotix, is a close collaboration between researchers, advisers, farmers, biologists and engineers. The partners in the project will combine technology and nature’s food chain to develop a system in which drones spread rove beetles, ground beetles and parasitoids over rapeseed fields. These insects have in common that they attack pests  without harming the rapeseed crop. 


Using drones to spread insects is not a novelty, but it is the first time that rove beetles and ground beetles are set in action. Part of the project therefore comprises the further development of drone spreading equipment that can spread precisely these insects.  


Natural enemies to be caught and bred


The first step will be to catch relevant natural enemies and breed them. Senior researchers Annie Enkegaard, Tove Steenberg and Gabor Lövei from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University are responsible for this part of the project.   


When they have collected and bred enough natural enemies, the project can start airdropping them down onto the pests in the rapeseed fields. The researchers from Aarhus University are also responsible for monitoring how the beneficial insects do on their trip in the drone and their landing in the rapeseed field. 


The method is expected to reduce Danish agriculture’s overall pesticide load and improve the possibilities of growing organic rapeseed.  


Facts about the project


Name: ØkoRaps – Udvikling af øko-drone til integreret plantebeskyttelse i raps (Development of an organic drone for integrated pest management in rapeseed)


Funding: 7,8 million DKK from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP)


Partners: Ecobotix (project leader), Aarhus University, EWH BioProduction, LMO, AgroVest, Danmarks Biavlerforening (Danish Beekeeper Association) and farmers


Duration: 3.5 years (1 July 2018-31 December 2021)  


For more information please contact:


Senior scientist Annie Enkegaard, Department of Agroecology, email: annie.enkegaard@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8223 


Senior scientist Tove Steenberg, Department of Agroecology, email: tove.steenberg@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8123 


Senior scientist Gabor Lövei, Department of Agroecology, email: gabor.lovei@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8224