Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows


Toby Bruce



+44 (0) 1582 763 133 ext: 2682

Rothamsted Research, West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ



Past Projects

Principal Investigator

  • A novel monitoring and forecasting system for the integrated management of bean seed beetle Bruchus rufimanus

Project Leader

  • Exploring adaptive immunity in plants
  • Integrated Control of the Bean Seed Beetle, Bruchus Rufimanus
  • A new generation of insect resistant GM crops: Transgenic wheat synthesising the aphid alarm signal
  • Adaptation and dissemination of the Push Pull technology (ADOPT)
  • Pesticide use and risk reduction in European farming systems with Integrated Pest Management: PURE
  • A new generation of insect resistant GM crops: Transgenic wheat synthesising the aphid alarm signal


  • European Network for the Durable Exploitation of crop protection strategies ENDURE
  • Chemical ecology of pest and beneficial arthropods : Understanding and exploiting semiochemical based mechanisms
  • Mechanisms of plant defence priming using seed treatments


Dr Toby Bruce is interested in the impact of crop pests on food security. The aim of his research is to improve crop protection by using chemical ecology and plant science to develop innovative approaches to manage insects. He conducts research on the chemical ecology of host location in insects and on alarm and sex pheromone signals. He developed the theory of how insects can use ratios of ubiquitous volatiles for host location. As well as advancing these fundamental aspects, he is interested in utilising semiochemicals for insect pest management at the field level. He has more than 70 scientific publications which include high impact journals such as PNAS, Ecology Letters and Trends in Plant Science. He is interested in finding new ways to protect crops from pests. As a direct result of his research and development work, pheromone traps for orange wheat blossom midge are commercially available to wheat growers in the UK. He is involved in collaborative work with researchers in the EU, India and Africa. He joined Rothamsted in 2000 and has a background in Biology and a PhD in Chemical Ecology. He is convenor of the Association of Applied Biologists Biocontrol and IPM group, Visiting Lecturer at Nottingham University and a Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich Natural Resources Institute.



Bruce, T. J. A. (2014). Interplay between insects and plants–dynamic and complex interactions that have coevolved over millions of years but act in milliseconds. Journal of Experimental Botany, eru391.

Bruce, T. J. A. (2014). Variation in plant responsiveness to defense elicitors caused by genotype and environment. Frontiers in plant science 5.

Bruce, T. J. A. (2014). Glucosinolates in oilseed rape: secondary metabolites that influence interactions with herbivores and their natural enemies. Annals of Applied Biology 164, 348-353.

Mutyambai, D. M., Midega, C. A., Bruce, T. J. A., van den Berg, J., Pickett, J. A. and Khan, Z. R.  (2014). Behaviour and biology of Chilo partellus on maize landraces. Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata 153, 170-181.

Wang, D., Liu, Q., Jones, H. D., Bruce, T.J. A. and Xia, L. (2014). Comparative transcriptomic analyses revealed divergences of two agriculturally important aphid species. BMC Genomics 15, 1023.

Jayanthi, P. D. K., Kempraj, V., Aurade, R. M., Venkataramanappa, R. K., Nandagopal, B., Verghese, A. and Bruce, T. J (2014). Specific Volatile Compounds from Mango Elicit Oviposition in Gravid Bactrocera dorsalis Females. Journal of Chemical Ecology 40, 259-266.

Khan, Z. R., Midega, C. A., Pittchar, J. O., Murage, A. W., Birkett, M. A., Bruce, T. J. and Pickett, J. A. (2014). Achieving food security for one million sub-Saharan African poor through push–pull innovation by 2020. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 369, 20120284.

Chidawanyika, F., Midega, C. A., Bruce, T. J., Duncan, F., Pickett, J. A. and Khan, Z. R. (2014). Oviposition acceptance and larval development of Chilo partellus stemborers in droughtâ??stressed wild and cultivated grasses of East Africa. Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata 151, 209-217.

Pickett, J. A., Aradottír, G. I., Birkett, M. A., Bruce, T. J., Hooper, A. M., Midega, C. A., Jones, H. D., Matthes, M. C., Napier, J. A. and Pittchar, J. O.  (2014). Delivering sustainable crop protection systems via the seed: exploiting natural constitutive and inducible defence pathways. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 369, 20120281.

Babikova, Z., Gilbert, L., Randall, K. C., Bruce, T. J., Pickett, J. A. and Johnson, D. (2014). Increasing phosphorus supply is not the mechanism by which arbuscular mycorrhiza increase attractiveness of bean (Vicia faba) to aphids. Journal of Experimental Botany, eru283.

Babikova, Z., Gilbert, L., Bruce, T., Dewhirst, S. Y., Pickett, J. A. and Johnson, D. (2014). Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and aphids interact by changing host plant quality and volatile emission. Functional Ecology 28, 375-385.

Kamala Jayanthi P.D., Kempraj V.,  Aurade R.M., Ravindra K.V., Bakthavatsalam. N., Abraham Verghese A. and Bruce T.J.A. (2014) Oviposition site-selection by Bactrocera dorsalis is mediated through an innate recognition template tuned to γ-octalactone. PLoS ONE

Midega C. A. O., Salifu D., Bruce T. J., Pittchar J., Pickett J. A., Khan Z. R. (2014) Cumulative effects and economic benefits of intercropping maize with food legumes on Striga hermonthica infestation. Field Crops Research, 155, 144-152.

Babikova Z., Johnson D., Bruce T., Pickett J., Gilbert L. (2014) Underground allies: How and why do mycelial networks help plants defend themselves? BioEssays, 36, 21-26.

Smart LE, Martin JL, Limpalaër M, Bruce TJ, Pickett JA (2013) Responses of Herbivore and Predatory Mites to Tomato Plants Exposed to Jasmonic Acid Seed Treatment. Journal of Chemical Ecology

Babikova Z, Gilbert L, Bruce T, Dewhirst S, Pickett J, et al. (2013) Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and aphids interact by changing host plant quality and volatile emission. Functional Ecology

Babikova Z, Johnson D, Bruce T, Pickett JA, Gilbert L (2013) How rapid is aphid-induced signal transfer between plants via common mycelial networks? Communicative & Integrative Biology 6: e25904.

Oluwafemi, S., Dewhirst, S.Y., Veyrat, N., Powers, S., Bruce, T.J., Caulfield, J.C., Pickett, J.A. & Birkett, M.A. (2013) Priming of Production in Maize of Volatile Organic Defence Compounds by the Natural Plant Activator cis-Jasmone. PLoS ONE, 8, e62299.

Tariq, M., Wright, D.J., Bruce, T.J. & Staley, J.T. (2013) Drought and Root Herbivory Interact to Alter the Response of Above-Ground Parasitoids to Aphid Infested Plants and Associated Plant Volatile Signals. PLoS ONE, 8, e69013.

Babikova, Z., Gilbert, L., Bruce, T.J.A., Birkett, M., Caulfield, J.C., Woodcock, C., Pickett, J.A. & Johnson, D. (2013) Underground signals carried through common mycelial networks warn neighbouring plants of aphid attack. Ecology Letters, 16: 835–843.

Hegde, M., Oliveira, J.N., da Costa, J.G., Loza-Reyes, E., Bleicher, E., Santana, A.E.G., Caulfield, J.C., Mayon, P., Dewhirst, S.Y., Bruce, T.J.A., Pickett, J.A., Birkett, M.A. (2012) Aphid antixenosis in cotton is activated by the natural plant defence elicitor cis-jasmone. Phytochemistry 78: 81-88.

Jayanthi, P.D.K., Woodcock, C.M., Caulfield, J., Birkett, M.A., Bruce, T.J.A. (2012) Isolation and Identification of Host Cues from Mango, Mangifera indica, That Attract Gravid Female Oriental Fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis. J. Chem. Ecol. 38: 361-369.

Pickett, J.A., Ardottir, G.I., Birkett, M.A., Bruce, T.J.A., Chamberlain, K., Khan, Z.R., Midega, C.A.O., Smart, L.E., Woodcock, C.M. (2012) Aspects of insect chemical ecology: exploitation of reception and detection as tools for deception of pests and beneficial insects. Physiol. Entomol. 37: 2-9.

Tamiru, A., Bruce, T.J.A., Midega, C.A.O., Woodcock, C.M., Birkett, M.A., Pickett, J.A., Khan, Z.R. (2012) Oviposition Induced Volatile Emissions from African Smallholder Farmers' Maize Varieties. J. Chem. Ecol. 38: 231-234.

Yu, X.-D., Pickett, J., Ma, Y.-Z., Bruce, T., Napier, J., Jones, H.D., Xia, L.-Q. (2012) Metabolic Engineering of Plant-derived (E)-β-farnesene Synthase Genes for a Novel Type of Aphid-resistant Genetically Modified Crop Plants. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 54: 282-299.

Luna E, Bruce TJA, Roberts MR, Flors V and Ton J (2012) Next Generation Systemic Acquired Resistance. Plant Physiol. 158: 844-853.

Lebesa, L.N., Khan, Z.R., Krueger, K., Bruce, T.J.A., Hassanali, A., Pickett, J.A. (2012) Farmers' knowledge and perceptions of blister beetles, Hycleus spp. (Coleoptera: Meloidae), as pest herbivores of Desmodium legumes in western Kenya. Int. J. Pest Manage. 58: 165-174.

Bruce TJA (2012) GM as a route for delivery of sustainable crop protection. J. Exp. Bot. 63: 537-541.

Tamiru A, Getu E, Jembere B, Bruce T (2012) Effect of temperature and relative humidity on the development and fecundity of Chilo partellus (Swinhoe) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 102: 9-15.

Tamiru A, Bruce TJA, Woodcock CM, Caulfield JC, Midega CAO, Ogol CKPO, Mayon P, Birkett MA, Pickett JA, Khan ZR (2011) Maize landraces recruit egg and larval parasitoids in response to egg deposition by a herbivore. Ecology Letters 14: 1075-1083.

Bruce TJA & Pickett JA (2011) Perception of plant volatile blends by herbivorous insects – Finding the right mix. Phytochemistry 72: 1605–1611.

Lebesa LN, Khan ZR, Hassanali A, Pickett JA, Bruce TJA, Skellern M and KrÜGer K, Responses of the blister beetle Hycleus apicicornis to visual stimuli. Physiol Entomol. 36: 220-229.

Björkman M et al. (2011) Phytochemicals of Brassicaceae in plant protection and human health – Influences of climate, environment and agronomic practice. Phytochemistry, 72: 538-556.

Bruce TJA, Martin JL, Smart LE, Pickett JA (2011) Development of semiochemical attractants for monitoring bean seed beetle, Bruchus rufimanus. Pest Management Science doi: 67: 1303-08.

Hedge M, Oliveira JN, da Costa JG, Bliecher E, Santana AEG, Bruce TJA, Caulfield J, Dewhirst SY, Woodcok CM, Pickett JA, Birkett MA (2011) Identification of Semiochemicals Released by Cotton, Gossypium hirsutum, Upon Infestation by the Cotton Aphid, Aphis gossypii. J. Chem. Ecol. 37: 741-750.

Matthes MC, Bruce TJA, Chamberlain K, Pickett JA, Napier JA (2011) Emerging roles in plant defense for cis-jasmone-induced cytochrome P450 CYP81D11 Plant Signalling and Behavior 6: 563 – 565.

Khan ZR, Midega CAO, Pittchar J, Pickett JA, Bruce TJA (2011) Push-pull technology: a conservation agriculture approach for integrated management of insect pests, weeds and soil health in Africa. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 1: 162-170.

Oluwafemi S, Bruce TJA, Pickett JA, Ton J & Birkett MA (2011) Behavioral Responses of the Leafhopper, Cicadulina storey China, a Major Vector of Maize Streak Virus, to Volatile Cues from Intact and Leafhopper-Damaged Maize. J. Chem. Ecol. 37: 40-48.

Padmaja PG, Woodcock CM, Bruce TJA (2010) Electrophysiological and Behavioral Responses of Sorghum Shoot Fly, Atherigona soccata, to Sorghum Volatiles. J. Chem. Ecol. 36: 1346-1353.

Birkett, M.A., Bruce, T.J.A. and Pickett, J.A. (2010) Repellent activity of Nepeta grandiflora and Nepeta clarkei (Lamiacease) against the cereal aphid, Sitobion avenae (Homoptera: Aphididae). Phytochemistry Letters 3:139-142.

Matthes M, Pickett JA, Bruce TJA, Ton J & Napier (2010) The transcriptome of cis-jasmone induced resistance in Arabidopsis thaliana and its role in indirect defence. Planta 232: 1163-80.

Khan ZR, Midega CAO, Bruce TJA, Hooper AM & Pickett JA (2010) Exploiting phytochemicals for developing a ‘push–pull’ crop protection strategy for cereal farmers in Africa. J Exp. Bot. 61: 4185-4196.

Bruce TJA (2010) Tackling the threat to food security caused by crop pests in the new millennium. Food Security 2: 133-141.

Bruce TJA, Midega CAO, Birkett MA, Pickett JA & Khan ZR (2010) Is quality more important than quantity? Insect behavioural responses to changes in a volatile blend after stemborer oviposition on an African grass. Biology Letters 6: 314-317.

Bruce TJA, Smart LE & Pickett (2010) Insect pests of wheat: a worldwide perspective. In “The World Wheat Book – a history of wheat breeding – vol 2” Eds. A Bonjean, W Angus & M van Ginkel, Lavoisier, Paris.

Bruce TJA (2010) Exploiting plant signals in sustainable agriculture. In “Plant Communication from Ecological Perspective” Eds. Velemir Ninkovic & František Baluška Ch 12. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg.

Webster B, Bruce TJA, Hardie J & Pickett JA (2010) Volatiles functioning as host cues in a blend become non-host cues when presented alone to the black bean aphid. Animal Behaviour 79: 451-457

Webster B, Gezan S, Bruce TJA, Hardie J & Pickett JA (2010) Between plant and diurnal variation in quantities and ratios of volatile compounds emitted by Vicia faba plants. Phytochemistry 71: 81-89

Ukeh DA, Birkett MA, Bruce TJA, Allan EJ, Pickett JA, Mordue AJ (2009) Behavioural responses of the maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais, to host (stored-grain) and non-host plant volatiles. Pest Management Science

Midega, C. A. O., Khan, Z. R., Van den Berg, J., Ogol, C. K. P. O., Bruce, T. J., Pickett, J. A. (2009) Non-target effects of the `push-pull' habitat management strategy: parasitoid activity and soil fauna abundance. Crop Prot. 28: 1045-1051.

Mendesil, E., Bruce, T., Woodcock, C., Caulfield, J., Seyoum, E. and Pickett, J. Semiochemicals used in Host Location by the Coffee berry Borer, Hypothenemus hampei. J. Chem. Ecol. 35: 944 - 950.

Whitney HM, Chittka L, Bruce TJA, Glover BJ (2009) Conical epidermal cells allow bees to grip flowers and increase foraging efficiency. Curr. Biol. 19: 948-953.

Bruce TJA, Smart LE (2009) Orange wheat blossom midge, Sitodiplosis mosellana, management. Outlooks Pest Manag. 20: 89-92.

Webster B, Bruce TJA, Pickett JA & Hardie J. (2008) Olfactory recognition of host plants in the absence of host-specific volatile compounds: Host location in the black bean aphid, Aphis fabae. Communicative & Integrative Biology 1: 167-169.

Webster B, Bruce TJA, Dufour S, Birkemeyer C, Birkett MA, Hardie, J & Pickett, JA (2008) Identification of volatile compounds used in host location by the black bean aphid, Aphis fabae. J. Chem. Ecol. 34: 1153-1161.

Bruce TJA, Matthes M, Chamberlain K, Woodcock CM, Mohib A, Webster B, Smart LE, Birkett MA, Pickett JA & Napier J (2008) cis-Jasmone induces Arabidopsis genes that affect the chemical ecology of multitrophic interactions with aphids and their parasitoids. PNAS 105: 4553-4558.  

Bruce TJA, Matthes MC, Napier JA, & Pickett JA (2007) Stressful “memories” of plants: evidence and possible mechanisms. Plant Sci. 173: 603-608.

Bruce TJA & Pickett JA (2007) Plant defence signalling induced by biotic attacks. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol.10: 387-392.

Bayram A, Gultekin A, Bruce TJ & Gezan, S (2007) Factors associated with mortality of the overwintering generation of Sesamia nonagrioides under field conditions Phytoparasitica 35: 490-506.

Bruce TJA, Hooper AM, Ireland LA, Jones OT, Martin JL, Smart LE, Oakley J & Wadhams LJ (2007) Development of a pheromone trap monitoring system for orange wheat blossom midge, Sitodiplosis mosellana, in the UK. Pest Manag. Sci. 63: 49-56.

Beale MH, Birkett MA, Bruce TJA, Chamberlain K, Field LM, Huttly AK, Martin JL, Parker R, Phillips AL, Pickett JA, Prosser IM, Shewry PR, Smart LE, Wadhams LJ, Woodcock CM & Zhang Y (2006) Aphid alarm pheromone produced by transgenic plants affects aphid and parasitoid behavior. PNAS 103: 10509-13.

Pickett JA, Bruce TJA, Chamberlain K, Hassanali A, Khan ZR, Matthes MC, Napier JA, Smart LE, Wadhams LJ & Woodcock CM (2006) Plant volatiles yielding new ways to exploit plant defence. In ‘Chemical Ecology: from Gene to Ecosystem.’ Eds. M Dicke & W Takken. Springer, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Ch. 11. pp. 161-173.

Bruce TJA, Birkett MA, Blande J, Hooper AM, Martin JL, Khambay B, Prosser I, Smart LE & Wadhams LJ (2005) Response of economically important aphids to components of Hemizygia petiolata essential oil. Pest Manag. Sci. 61: 1115-1121.

Bruce TJA, Wadhams LJ & Woodcock CM (2005) Insect host location: a volatile situation. Trends Plant Sci. 10:269-274.

Birkett MA, Bruce TJA, Martin JA, Smart LE, Oakley J & Wadhams, LJ (2004). Responses of female orange wheat blossom midge, Sitodiplosis mosellana, to wheat panicle volatiles. J. Chem. Ecol. 30: 1319-1328

Bruce TJA, Martin JL, Pickett JA, Pye BJ, Smart LE & Wadhams LJ (2003) cis-Jasmone treatment induces resistance in wheat plants against the grain aphid, Sitobion avenae (Fabricius) (Homoptera: Aphididae). Pest Manag. Sci. 59: 1031 – 1036

Bruce TJA, Pickett JA & Smart LE (2003) cis-Jasmone switches on plant defence against insects. Pesticide Outlook 14: 96 – 98  

Bruce, TJ & Cork, A (2001) Electrophysiological and behavioral responses of female Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae) to compounds identified in flowers of African marigold, Tagetes erecta. J. Chem. Ecol. 27: 1119 – 1131

Measures of esteem


  • Visting Lecturer at the University of Nottingham
  • Convenor of Association of Applied Biologists (AAB) Biocontrol Group
  • Visiting Professor: Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich


  • Association of Applied Biologists Biocontrol Committee: Full Committee Member
  • Invited lecture: European Chemoreception Research Organisation conference (ECRO 2011): Insect perception of blends of host plant volatiles
  • Invited Lecture: Crop World Global 2011: Examining recent research into aphid-resistant GM wheat
  • Keynote talk: University of Amsterdam, Workshop on Plant-Insect Interactions: Responses of phytophagous insects and their natural enemies to plant volatile profiles
  • Invited Lecture: AAB-IBMA Biopesticides 2011: The role of pheromones and other semiochemicals in IPM programmes


  • Invited lecture: Crop World Global 2010: Responding to the threat to food security caused by crop pests in the new millennium.


  • Session chairman at conference: Organised and chaired a session on biotic interactions at the AAB conference, Agriculture: Africa's "Engine for Growth" - Plant science & biotechnology hold the key.


  • Reviewer for Journals: Agricultural and Forest Entomology Annals of Applied Biology Biocontrol Bulletin of Entomological Research Chemical Senses Crop protection Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata International Journal of Tropical Insect Science Journal of Chemical Ecology Journal of Experimental Botany Naturwissenschaften Pest management science Physiological Entomology Plant Biology Plant Science Plant, Cell & Environment PLOS Biology


  • Conference organiser and chairman: Organised and chaired a Society of Chemistry and Industry conference on Plant Signalling


  • PhD supervisor: Ben Webster (successfully completed in 2009)



  • PhD in Chemical Ecology (Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich)


  • MSc in Applied Entomology (Pest Management) (Imperial College London)
  • DIC in Applied Entomology (Imperial College London)


  • BSc in B.Sc. Biology (Ecology) (University College London)