Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Crop Protection Ideas

Scientists Discover How To Send Insects Off The Scent Of Crops
ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2009) — Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded research, published recently in Chemical Communication, describes how scientists have discovered molecules that could confuse insects’ ability to detect plants by interfering with their sense of smell. This could reduce damage to crops by insect pests and contribute to food security.

Lead researcher Dr Antony Hooper of Rothamsted Research, an institute of BBSRC said: “One way in which insects find each other and their hosts is by smell, or more accurately: the detection of chemical signals – pheromones, for example. Insects smell chemicals with their antennae; the chemical actually gets into the antennae of the insect and then attaches to a protein called an odorant-binding protein, or OBP. This then leads to the insect changing its behaviour in some way in response to the smell, for example, flying towards a plant or congregating with other insects.”

Dr Hooper continued: “As well as learning about the nature of this interaction we’ve actually found that there are other compounds that bind to the OBP much more strongly than the pheromone. We could potentially apply these compounds, or similar ones, in some way to block the insects’ ability to detect chemical signals – the smell would be overwhelmed by the one we introduce. We’d expect the insects to be less likely to orientate themselves towards the crop plants, or find mates in this case, and therefore could reduce the damage. Read More

Figuring out new ways to protect our crops from pests and disease could significantly increase our yields. New research suggests that there’s a possibility we could make our crops smell different so that insects wouldn’t recognize them. Essentially being able to “hide” our crops from these devastating insects is great example of using modern technology to solve food production problems.

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