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It destroys plant pests environmentally

12/02/2019 11:45 AM

It destroys plant pests environmentally

Butterflies can be a problem for farmers, especially their larvae: they often cause great damage to crops. Although pesticides can help, they have been criticized. Pheromones are a viable but expensive alternative. The new production process should reduce their costs and make them competitive. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP are committed to sustainability and LCA in the EU OLEFINE project.

Pesticides are in criticism: Spraying on fruits, grains or other plants has a negative impact on the environment. After all, insecticides not only reduce pests such as European pine and corn, but also reduce the number of beneficial insects such as bees, bumblebees and Co, reducing biodiversity. On the other hand, pesticide residues can remain in the food. The Flip Side of the Coin: The world population is growing and needs to be stocked – without pesticides, this is hardly possible. A viable solution is provided by pheromones. Instead of killing insects, they ensure that male pests no longer find their female partner and prevent them from spreading. There are almost no real pests – hence the larvae eaten by bald plants -. Pheromones offer a number of advantages over pesticides: they do not harm the farmer, pollute the insects, nor do residues remain on the plants. However, chemical synthesis so far used to make pheromones is very expensive and often harmful to the environment.

Make pheromones more cost effective

New production technology will change that in the future – and significantly reduce the cost to pheromones in the long run. Researchers are currently developing a process in the EU project OLEFINE, which also includes the Fraunhofer Institute of Building Physics IBP. "Instead of chemical synthesis of pheromones, the team relies on biotechnology production," explains Eva Knüpffer, Fraunhofer IBP research associate. The principle is known, among other things, for the production of insulin. The basis is the yeast cells, which create pheromones by their metabolism under certain conditions. The production process itself is led by Biophero inDenmark. Fraunhofer IBP colleagues are dedicated to sustainability and life cycle assessment – both the way pheromones are produced and subsequently used. "We use models to examine, for example, how much material and energy is required in the production process and how it affects the environment. In this process, we consider in detail the individual steps and show which individual steps would have a major impact on change. This information is being returned to the Danish partners, who implement it accordingly, ”says Knüpffer.

Environmental Impact

In the future, researchers will also want to look more closely at the environmental impact of pheromones, and field trials with biotechnologically produced pheromones are planned for 2020. The data collected there will carry out further calculations and investigations based on LCA models. One question: How do pheromones affect biodiversity? What is their impact on pests? Compared to common insecticides. In doing so, researchers can evaluate the extent to which pheromones can reduce the environmental impact of pesticides.

In the long run, a similar price range as imaginable pesticides

The Fraunhofer IBP research team is also conducting a cost analysis. Although concrete statements are not yet possible, Knüpffer is convinced: “Biotechnological production of pheromones is significantly cheaper than chemical. In addition: Pheromone should only be applied once a year during the moth flight phase, while insecticides are usually sprayed several times a year. Therefore, it is quite possible in the long run to come in the same price range as pesticides, ”says the researcher. Another benefit for farmers: they do not have to drive across the field with a heavy tractor to pull out the pesticide. Because pheromones are distributed in biodegradable dispensers in the field at regular intervals. This also results in reduced diesel consumption and soil compaction, and thus environmental impact.

This project will receive funding from the European Union's Research and Innovation Program Horizon 2020 in accordance with Grant Contract no. 760,798th

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Features of this press release:

Biology, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Animals / Earth / Forest, Environment / Ecology
Research projects, collaborations