Agroscope is the Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research, with the overarching objectives to contribute to a competitive and sustainable agriculture and food sector as well as to an intact environment. Agroscope coordinates the project IPM-Popillia and leads the tasks 2.3 (ecology of biocontrol applications), 3.2 (entomopathogenic fungi for P. japonica grub control) and 3.5 (Attract-and-infest strategy against P. japonica adults).
Two research groups of Agroscope are involved in the project IPM-Popillia:
The research group "Ecological Plant Protection in Arable Crops" is part of Agroscope's Department of Plant Protection, and develops and implements sustainable crop protection and plant health measures. More than 30 years of activity in biological control of insect pests has resulted in the build-up of one of the most important strain collections of entomopathogenic fungi in Europe (2'800 strains) and the development of commercially available products with entomopathogenic fungi as "active ingredient". This group's experience in white grub control is an important asset in the development of a biocontrol strategy against P. japonica, which is closely related to native grub species.
The reseach group "Molecular Ecology" is part of the department of "Method Development and Analytics" at Agroscope and focusses on the development of molecular genetic methods for the detection, description and quantification of micro-organisms, insects, and their populations in ecosystems. The group investigates the functional diversity of micro-organisms and their interactions with insect and plant hosts in agricultural systems, allowing specific use of the positive characteristics of micro-organisms in agricultural systems and enabling negative characteristics to be controlled.
Giselher Grabenweger, project coordinator
I am fascinated by animals since my early childhood. While I was growing up, my objects of "research" gradually became smaller, from Dinosaurs to sharks, then birds, and finally insects. However, my interest and dedication to explore nature never decreased, although I use a binocular these times to make my observations.
More seriously, I achieved my Master's (1998) and PhD (2003) in Zoology/ Entomology at the University of Vienna, Austria, with research on control of invasive species by native natural enemies. After positions at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna (BOKU), the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, and at the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) in Vienna, I moved to my current position as a senior scientist in the research group "Ecological Plant Protection in Arable Crops" at Agroscope in Zurich, Switzerland.
My main interest is the diagnosis and management of pest insects, especially their control by natural antagonists. The control of soil borne insect pests, like wireworms or grubs with entomopathogenic fungi is the current focus of my research. In the IPM-Popillia project, I am investigating possibilities to apply these fungi against larvae and adults of the Japanese beetle which is a part of WP 3.
Unfortunately, I spend more time on my job as Coordinator of the project IPM-Popillia, while my PhD students take over the interesting part of the project work ;-)
Fionna Knecht, project manager
I studied agriculture science at ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and have a master degree in crop science. I have been working since at Agroscope within various projects in the group of Giselher Grabenweger.
In the IPM-Popillia project I am responsible for administrative tasks and writing the blog. I have the overview of all dates and deadlines in my head and I am the contact person for all questions, for our Ph. D. students and all project partners. I always have an open ear and a helping hand whenever questions arise.
At Agroscope I manage our laboratory and help with work and experiments when needed. Whenever I get the chance to go outdoors for work on our field trials, I am very happy to tag along and play with dirt.
Jürg Enkerli, Ph.D. senior scientist
After receiving a Ph. D from the University of Georgia, Athens GA USA, I have worked as a PostDoc with Prof. Th. Boller at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel for two years. I am employed at Agroscope since 1999, first as a PostDoc in the Biological Control group with Dr. S. Keller and then as a research scientist in the Molecular Ecology Group with Dr. F. Widmer.
I am responsible for research projects in molecular fungal ecology focusing on the development and use of molecular genetic diagnostics to investigate basic questions in the biology and ecology of entomopathogenic fungi. In the frame of the IPM-Popillia project, I investigate interactions of insect pathogenic fungi, with P. japonica, the microbiome and (micro-) arthropod communities to learn about the biotic factors that may affect the development of applied fungal control agents.
In my leisure time I enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, cycling or working in my garden.
Tanja Sostizzo, Ph.D. student
My love-hate relationship to the beautiful but dangerous Japanese beetle started already in 2018. Prior to my Ph.D., I worked as research assistance on a small project with the goal to adapt the state of the art control of native grubs with entomopathogenic fungi to the Japanese beetle. I am happy to continue this work now in collaboration with other research groups.
Before I met the Japanese beetle, I studied biology and environmental sciences and did an internship at the phytosanitary service of Agroscope.
Apart from my job, I enjoy different outdoor activities like hiking, horse riding or gardening.
Noëmi Küng, Ph.D. student
I studied biology and bioinformatics at the University of Zurich. As fungi enthusiast, I changed from working with human pathogenic fungi in my Masters to insect pathogenic fungi now in my Ph.D.
I am part of the team Agroscope since November 2020. Fascinated by the interplay of different organisms, I study the impact of soil microbes on the establishment of the biocontrol agent applied against P. japonica larvae (Task 2.3).
Growing up with a big organic garden and orchard and conducting several internships in ecotoxicology at FHNW, during my studies, I am highly motivated in contributing to find organic and IPM alternatives to protect our agriculture from this invasive pest.
Magdalena Wey, Ph.D. student
I studied agricultural sciences at ETH Zürich. After my studies, I did an internship in forest entomology (biocontrol of eucalyptus bugs) at INIA Uruguay and thereafter worked in R+D of Andermatt Biocontrol Suisse AG.
I started my PhD project at Agroscope in January 2021, working on task 3.4 Attract-and-infest methods for the control of P. japonica adults.
When I am not fighting invasive beetles, you can probably find me outdoors cycling, walking, hiking or swimming. Therefore, I feel motivated to contribute my ideas and working hours to an IPM toolbox that helps maintain a healthy environment.