JERUSALEM, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers have developed a biological control weapon, the first of its kind in the world, against weevils which destroy large quantities of date palms, the Volcani Agricultural Institute announced Thursday.
The harmful weevils are found almost everywhere in Israel and so far the only treatment has been through the use of harsh pesticides.
In the past, researchers tried to infect the beetles with a fungus, in order to cause a deadly epidemic in them, but only about 20 percent of them died.
The new weapon developed is free of toxins and based on nematodes, a microscopic roundworm that could kill the pests, the Volcani Agricultural Institute said.
The experiment of the new method was conducted in a date farm in the settlement of Ashdot Yaakov located in the Jordan Valley, it said.
The researchers found that more than 70 percent of the pests died as a result of the action of the nematodes.
Date farming is one of the most significant agricultural industries in Israel in terms of economic value in exports. In order to compete with the global market, the use of harsh pesticides has to be reduced, hence the need to deal with the damage of the pests in environmentally safer ways.
The nematodes, which are naturally found in the soil, can detect their prey and enter its body to secrete a bacterium that will multiply and produce toxins to kill it.