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New collaborative research project gets under way to fight beetle pests in pulse crops by innovative lure-and-kill technology

Leaf notching caused by pea and bean weevil

Rothamsted Research is key partner in a new research project which aims to design and produce a control system for beetle pests of peas and beans, which does not use blanket sprays of insecticides.

Pea and bean weevil and bruchid beetle are common pests in UK legumes. Damage caused by the weevil adult is visible as notching around the leaf margins and, although this damage doesn’t usually significantly affect yield, the eggs laid during feeding produce larvae which feed in the nitrogen-fixing root nodules of peas and beans, resulting in yield loss. Damage caused by bruchid beetle is visible as holes in the seed, affecting quality and value to the grower.

“Following discussions with growers over recent years, it has become apparent that current control using spray applications have become less effective,” says Becky Ward, Principal Technical Officer at PGRO.  “We believe this is either due to increasing pest pressure, or possibly decreased efficacy of pyrethroid insecticides.”

“As a result of this feedback, PGRO, Rothamsted Research, Oecos, Exosect Ltd and BASF plc are undertaking research to design and produce a control system for beetle pests of peas and beans, which does not use blanket sprays of insecticides.

“Instead, the beetles will be lured to simple devices, baited with beetle-specific attractive odours, where they will be coated with spores of an insect fungal disease. When they leave the device they will spread the disease to other beetles like them.

“This will reduce pest beetle numbers and damage to the crops without damage to the environment or other beneficial and non-target insects such as pollinating bees.

“The insect fungal disease occurs naturally in the soil in the UK and does not pose a risk to other animals. The attractants used are either insect-produced (a specific pheromone) or are odours produced by flowering peas and beans.

“The spores and the attractants will be prepared in a novel formulation that is electrostatically charged and sticks to the beetle's body and is passed on to other beetles when they meet.”

Monitoring systems are already available which detect adults when they begin migrating in the early spring. The systems comprise traps containing pheromone lures or plant semio-chemicals and are used to aid spray application decision-making. The aim of this new project is to provide effective and environmentally-friendly biological control of both pea and bean weevil and bruchid beetle. 

The project is partially funded by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, with additional support from industry partners PGRO, BASF plc, Oecos and Exosect Ltd.

“The partners are starting detailed work on the project in October with research and investigations being carried out over the next four years,” adds Becky Ward.

Dr Toby Bruce of Rothamsted Research said: “I’m very excited about this new project because it will use species specific attractants to make crop pests come to a biological control agent rather than blanket spraying with insecticide. This could change how we control insect pests in fields. It uses a very innovative formulation that will allow co-delivery of a pea and bean weevil aggregation pheromone with a biocontrol agent.”

Contacts

  • Toby Bruce
  • For further technical information, please contact PGRO:  +44 (0)1780 782585   info@pgro.org
    For press information, contact PGRO's PR agency, Ahead Ltd on +44 (0)190 4634040  mail@aheadpr.eu

Notes to Editors

1. The work is partly funded by Technology Strategy competition ‘Agri-Tech Catalyst - Industrial Research - Round 1’, and the award title is ‘Lure-and-kill technology to manage beetle pests (Sitona lineatus and Bruchus rufimanus) of field beans and peas.’

2. PGRO is the non statutory levy body which promotes and carries out research and development in peas and beans. PGRO growing guides and recommended lists of varieties are the national references for growers. The PGRO publishes 'The Pulse Magazine' quarterly, the 'Pulse Agronomy Guide' annually, issues bulletins during the growing season, provides education and training courses, and runs grower / agronomist meetings around the UK.   

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For further information, please contact:

Jonathan Carruthers (jonathan.carruthers@rothamsted.ac.uk), Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 109
Dr Matina Tsalavouta (matina.tsalavouta@rothamsted.ac.uk), Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 525

About Rothamsted Research

We are the longest running agricultural research station in the world, providing cutting-edge science and innovation for over 170 years. Our mission is to deliver the knowledge and new practices to increase crop productivity and quality and to develop environmentally sustainable solutions for food and energy production.

Our strength lies in the integrated, multidisciplinary approach to research in plant, insect and soil science.

Rothamsted Research is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). In 2013-2014 Rothamsted Researched received a total of £32.9M from the BBSRC.

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The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

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