Science - June 9, 2005

Lures for Korean bugs

Researchers at Plant Research International will develop artificial odours that can be used for sustainable biological control of bugs in the fruit and vegetable sector in South Korea. The Korean-Dutch cooperation started officially at the end of May.

Bugs come in many shapes and colours, but all have a sizeable proboscis that they use to suck juices out of plants and fruits. ‘Bugs cause a lot of damage in fruit, rice and soya crops in South Korea. That is why the South Koreans are searching for more sustainable forms of pest control,’ explains Dr Frans Griepink, who is leading the project Pherobank at Plant Research International.

Griepink is involved in the Korean-Dutch research consortium that will focus on developing reliable and environment-friendly control methods against these bug pests. Other participants in the consortium are the National Yeongnam Agricultural Station (YARI), the Gyeongsang National University (GNSU) in South Korea and Entocare, a Wageningen company specialising in biological crop protection. Plant Research International’s part in the project will be to identify and produce the lures, pheromones, which influence the bugs’ behaviour. Entocare will select the appropriate insects for biological control, while the Korean partners will focus on application and analyses of the new forms of pest control in the field.

Griepink: ‘We are going to try out a new form of pest control where we try to concentrate the pests in the field by using aggregation pheromones. We will create a sort of natural breeding ground in the field and then release natural enemies to deal with the pest. Because the natural enemies are sure of encountering lots of hosts we can create the conditions for optimally effective pest control.’ All tests in South Korea will be done on open fields, for example on bugs that damage the sweet persimmon, a fruit sold in the Netherlands and also known as kaki or Sharon fruit.

The Pherobank at Plant Research International, the biggest pheromone bank in the world, has about five hundred different substances available for biological pest control. Nevertheless Griepink thinks it will not be easy to just select a pheromone off the shelf. ‘We have specialised in moth pheromones. Bugs are a totally different kind of insect, and we will probably have to develop completely different lures for them.’

The Korean-Dutch project will run for four years, and has a budget of 320,000 euros. The Dutch side is being partly funded by the research financing body Senter Novem, and the South Korean government is also responsible for investment. / GvM

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