Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis)

Chemical study of insect-plant interactions: a contribution to biorational control of crop pests

Western Flower Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis)

Chemical study of insect-plant interactions: a contribution to biorational control of crop pests

New solutions for managing insect pests are urgently needed due to evolution of resistance to current insecticides. This project focuses on development and bioactivity testing of novel nanotech formulations of plant secondary metabolites that could provide new options for crop protection. The Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) group has strong preliminary data showing that nanotech formulations of certain plant flavonoids complexed with Mg (II) substantially reduce growth of insects. Preliminary experiments done by the Keele University (KU) group with PAA (poly(allylamine)) nanotech formulations of essential oils have shown highly significant repellent action, with greatly enhanced activity compared to conventionally formulated material. UK-Brazil collaboration would provide an ideal opportunity to strengthen this new and promising area of research. The project includes Workshops and exchange visits to build a research network between the groups. Both groups are sharing expertise and work together to create novel nanotech formulations of plant secondary metabolites (flavonoids such as Hesperidin and Naringenin, phenolic acids and essential oils). Parallel experiments are being conducted testing activity against selected insects, chosen due to their relevance to Brazilian agriculture and insecticide resistance challenges. Bioassays with Western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, and peach-potato aphid, Myzus persicae, are being conducted at KU; with whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, at São Paulo State University (UNESP), and with fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda at UFSCar. Antibiotic, antifeedant and repellent activity are being tested for using established methods. The experiments conducted in the pump-priming project are revealing the potential for use of nanotechnology to improve the formulation of plant secondary metabolites for use against insects. The project is benefiting from the expertise in the KU School of Pharmacy Co-I who has considerable expertise inevelopment of nanotech formulations for the medical sector. We are evaluating the extent to which low cost technologies already developed for medicines can be translated into the agricultural field. In addition to the programme of empirical research, we are conducting a literature review of the area and submit this to a high quality scientific journal as a contribution to knowledge. We think there is considerable potential for cross-fertilisation between the disciplines involved in the project (chemistry, medicine and entomology). This has potential to allow agricultural formulation technology to “leapfrog” into nanotechnology by using approaches already developed for Medicine. Furthermore, there are, of course, be insights gained by sharing insights with the Brazilian scientists who are at the forefront of the development of nanotechnology for crop protection. The project has considerable potential to generate much needed new tools for managing insect pests of crops.

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Dr Joe Roberts
Insect Chemical Ecology Research Associate