Projekte & Forschung


ARGE Drahtwurm - Alternative methods of wireworm control in potatoes

Laufzeit: 2016-2020

Fördergeber:innen: LE 14-20 (EU, Bund, Länder)

Partner: Edmund Rauchberger (Erdäpfelhof Rauchberger), Karl Paul (Bauernhof Paul), Paul Votzi, Johannes Mayer (Feldgemüse Mayer), Eduard Paminger (Sauwalderdäpfel), Romed Giner (Giner Gemüse), Erzeugergemeinschaft Bauernerdäpfel Verkaufs GmbH, IGE (Interessensgemeinschaft Erdäpfelbau)

Ansprechperson GLOBAL 2000: Claudia Meixner

In Austria, wireworms, the soil-dwelling larvae of click beetles, cause damage of several million Euros per year alone with potatoes. They tunnel into potato tubers, thereby reducing the share of marketable tubers.

The control of wireworms is a major challenge in both conventional and organic farming. In conventional potato production, currently approved insecticides reach their limits of effectiveness when infestation pressure is high. There is also a lack of effective control options in organic potato production.

With the aim of developing and testing effective and practical alternatives to the use of chemical-synthetic pesticides for wireworm control in potatoes, ARGE Drahtwurm was founded, bringing together relevant stakeholders from the fields of agriculture, research and environmental protection. To achieve the project goal, a series of lab and field studies were carried out, the latter in several production areas under common production conditions and in close cooperation with practitioners.

The studies covered the following main topics:

  • the distribution, temporal occurrence and spatial distribution of the agriculturally important wireworm species were surveyed;
  • basic knowledge was acquired on the species-specific virulence of various strains of an insect-pathogenic fungus against wireworm species occurring in Austria - also as affected by environmental factors;
  • the efficiency of alternative, direct control measures against wireworms under field conditions was assessed.


  • Wireworm species have different geographical distribution patterns, and can be divided into species preferring either dry-warm or moist-cool environments. Wireworm activity across arable areas fluctuates considerably throughout the year.
  • Laboratory tests with an insect-pathogenic fungus showed the virulence to depend on fungus strain and wireworm species.
  • In practical experiments, the most promising option to reduce potato tuber damage caused by wireworms was a combination of the application of fungus-colonised barley grains and the establishment of a mixture of wireworm-attracting plants in the potato crop. For practical application, a consistently high quality of fungi preparations must be ensured, and there has to be a sufficient soil humidity.

The results obtained were spread via seminars, information events and mailings especially to potato growing practitioners, and to further stakeholders in the field of agricultural production via publications and conference papers.


A steady reduction of wireworm populations can be achieved by a combination of long-term measures: Crop rotation, humus build-up, targeted soil tillage, promotion of natural antagonists and the use of environmentally compatible means such as insect-pathogenic fungi. To achieve this, the biology of the individual wireworm species must be examined even more extensively.

In the future, great importance will be attributed to forecast models, which can be important bases for decisions on for example the right scheduling of targeted soil tillage measures, but also for other strategies to minimise wireworm damage.


ARGE Larvenzucht - Larvae breeding for feed production for fish, poultry and pigs

Duration: 2018-2021

Sponsors: LE 14-20 (EU, Bund, Länder)

Partner: Michael Forster (Landwirtschaft Forster), Simon Weinberger (ecofly GmbH), Eva Erhart, Marion Bonell (Bio Forschung Austria), Reinhard Resch, Michael Kropsch, Eduard Zentner (HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein), Franz Lahnsteiner (BA Wasserwirtschaft), Martin Gierus (Universität für Bodenkultur)

GLOBAL 2000 Contact: Peter Schweiger

At present, soy from South America and fishmeal are the main feedstuffs used in European livestock farming. These imports lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions and cause declines in biodiversity due to the overfishing of the world's oceans and the destruction of rainforests for soybean cultivation. Insect larvae fed on residues and by-products of the agricultural value chain have been discussed to have potential as an alternative protein source in poultry, pig and fish farming. In order to assess the practicability of the production of black soldier fly larvae in Austria and to evaluate its potential, the operational group "ARGE Larvenzucht" (larval farming consortium) was started in 2018.

The following tasks and main topics were considered:

  • basic, practical knowledge on the effects of various substrates on the composition of the larvae was generated;
  • the technical processing of larval protein and larval fat was developed;
  • the material composition and usability of the residual substrate that remains after feeding the larvae was assessed;
  • the actual digestibility of larval protein and larval fat was examined in feeding studies.
  • the presumed environmental benefits of domestically produced larval protein was evaluated.


  • The meal produced from black soldier fly larvae showed potential for use as feed in the livestock sector. The composition of insect larvae differed depending on the substrate used for feeding the larvae.
  • In broiler production, 15 % of soya extraction meal and 100 % of the soya oil in the feed mixture could be replaced by larval protein and larval fat, respectively, with no negative effects on broiler production or health.
  • For use in aquaculture, a promising feed mixture with a replacement of 50 % of the protein from fish meal by larval protein was developed for further testing.
  • Digestibility trial in pigs provided essential information for the determination of a promising experimental feed mixture and showed very good digestibility values of phosphorus.
  • Insect larvae can be conserved by silage if mixed with a suitable carbohydrate source.
  • The residual substrate left over from larval rearing can be used as organic fertiliser.
  • The life cycle assessment showed insect larval meal to be an ecologically more advantageous protein source than soybean meal from South America. The ecological advantages depended however on the production method and were therefore not the same for all larval proteins and larval fats produced in the course of the project. Additionally, the analysis showed a need for improvement in some environmental categories.
  • An economically competitive use was currently identified only for the pet food sector and was predicted to develop earlier for fish (replacement of fish meal) than for poultry and pigs (replacement of soybean meal). The production volume of larvae would first have to be expanded worldwide for large-scale use.

The results obtained were disseminated to the main target group, primarily conventional and organic poultry farms. Additionally, results were spread in the scientific community and, for the purpose of acceptance of larval feeding, in the general population.


In the project, the practicability of the production of black soldier fly larvae on suitable substrates in Austria could be confirmed. Certain extents of the soy meal and oil usually used in broiler feed mixtures can be replaced by protein and fat from the insect larvae. Preliminary trials also showed considerable potential for the incorporation of insect larval protein and fat in pig and fish diets. For insect larval protein to be ecologically advantageous compared to soy protein, care has to be taken in the selection of production parameters such as feed substrate for the larvae and energy sources used.



PRP – Pesticide Reduction Program

Since: 2003

Partner: REWE International AG

Contact: Claudia Meixner

WHY? Pesticide Reduction Program GLOBAL 2000

Fruit and vegetables should nowadays not only look beautiful and be kept for weeks, but also be available all year round. As a result, conventional agriculture is increasingly dependent on mineral fertilizers and chemically synthesized pesticides, which endanger the health of farm workers, destroy biodiversity and pollute habitats and our foods.

Nine from ten fruits samples and six from ten vegetables samples are contaminated by pesticides. Two or more pesticides are found on every second sample.

In order to reduce pesticide exposure on fresh fruits and vegetables, GLOBAL2000 developed the Pesticide Reduction Program (PRP) in 2002. The latter has been implemented since 2003 in collaboration with BILLA and since 2006 also with BILLA PLUS (formerly MERKUR) and PENNY, three supermarkets of REWE International AG.


The objectives of the PRP are, on the one hand, to increase the safety of consumers by reducing the residue load on fresh fruit and vegetables and, on the other hand, to protect the environment by reducing the use of pesticides in the production. This is achieved through targeted controls, but also through measures such as the promotion of alternative plant protection methods.

HOW WE WORK? The four pillars

1. Standards

PRP applies own upper limits for pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. These are usually stricter than the legal maximum values. ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) values are The calculation of the PRP upper limits and the sum of exposure are based on the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) values. The latter are defined by internationally recognized bodies for each active substance and represent a measure of its chronic health hazard. As an exception, the PRP upper limits for hormonal active pesticides (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, EDCs) are set lower, on the basis of a minimization approach due to the particularly high hazard potential. Further, the PRP evaluates samples the acute reference dose (ARfD) and the legal maximum levels (MRL) accordingly.

2. Controlling

Risk-oriented samplings are carried out weekly through the entire fresh fruit and vegetable assortments of REWE, to verify compliance with the required residue limits. Over 1500 samples are taken per year.

The result of each pesticide residue analysis is communicated to the supplier. Depending on the type of exceedance, measures are taken ranging from increased sampling to banning or delisting of the product.

3. Commodity management

The cooperation with suppliers, producers and agricultural technicians plays an important role in our Pesticide Reduction Program. Potential ways for reducing residue loads and pesticide uses are discussed and developed together with suppliers. Approaches of solutions range from substitution of problematic substances, implementation of alternative methods, field experiments or large scale applied projects.

4. Awareness raising & Transparency

Raising awareness and educating consumers are other strengths of our program. Consumers should be well informed in order to make wise purchasing decisions. BILLA is the only supermarket chain in the world to weekly publish all its pesticide residue results on its website. A simple traffic light system shows whether a product had to be blocked or is under observation due to an exceedance.

Once a year, all analysis results of the REWE pesticides residues monitoring are statistically evaluated and presented in detail in the "Status report on chemical plant protection".


The PRP is an ongoing project, a stepwise program. Every new step means at least one new challenge. At the moment the reduction of EDCs, which affects a wide range of fruits and vegetables from different provenances, is our main endeavor.

Here are few examples from the past:

All started with peppers from Spain, with pesticide residues much higher than the legal upper limits allowed. Today producers across Europe produce their peppers, tomatoes and eggplants, with beneficial insects instead of insecticides.

In 2003, the insecticide Chlorpyrifos could be detected in 80% of apples from Austria delivered to REWE. In 2017, the pesticide was no longer found on a single apple. One reason for this is the use of environmentally friendly pest control methods against the pest codling moth.

Regarding table grapes from Italy, the average of pesticide load could be halved by 2011 and has remained at a low level since then. This is a result of a intense cooperation with the producers.

Through workshops with suppliers of potato toREWE, use and residues of the grow regulator Chlorpropham could be greatly reduced in recent years, way before expiration of its EU approval.

Long before the EU has banned Dimethoat, a powerful insecticide against the cherry fruit fly and also highly toxic to humans, the Austrian REWE producers have already replaced it with other, less toxic products.