Prevalence, attachment ability and strength of the biological control agent Bacillus thuringiensis on tomato

Zhao, Xingchen; Hendriks, Marc; Deleu, Emily; Spanoghe, Pieter; Höfte, Monica; van Overbeek, Leo; Uyttendaele, Mieke


Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is commonly used as a biological control agent (BCA) to control insect pests in edible plant production and can as such be introduced into the food chain of fresh produce. Using standard food diagnostics Bt will be detected and reported as presumptive B. cereus. Tomato plants are often sprayed with Bt biopesticides for insect control, thus these Bt BCAs can also reach the tomato fruits and persist until consumption. In this study, vine tomatoes from the retail in Belgium (Flanders) were investigated for the occurrence and residual numbers of presumptive B. cereus and Bt. Of 109 tomato samples, 61 (56%) were tested positive for presumptive B. cereus. Of the presumptive B. cereus isolates (n = 213) recovered from these samples, 98% were identified as Bt by the production of parasporal crystals. Further quantitative real-time PCR assays on a subselection of Bt isolates (n = 61) showed that 95% of Bt isolates were indistinguishable from Bt biopesticide strains that are approved to be used on crops in the EU. Furthermore, the attachment strength of tested Bt biopesticide strains showed easier wash-off properties if using the commercial Bt granule formulation than the unformulated lab-cultured Bt or B. cereus spore suspensions.