Fighting Nature with Nature

22 April 2015

New research into sustainable pest management controls might soon offer avocado growers an effective non-chemical control for the most common pest of avocado crops in New Zealand - the leafrollers. The research being conducted by scientists at Plant & Food Research aims to use the pests' own sex pheromones to disrupt the mating process in an effort to reduce populations.

“Sex pheromones, the natural chemicals released by the females of many insect species to attract mates, can be used to disrupt communication between insects” says Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Max Suckling.

“By reducing their ability to identify mates, we’re able to reduce the number of leafrollers and decrease the reliance on chemical controls, saving growers money and reducing environmental impacts.”

Mating disruption (MD) technology has already been demonstrated to work against several leafroller species in New Zealand horticultural cropping systems, including apples and summerfruit. Four apple pests in New Zealand, codling moth and three leafroller species are currently managed using pheromones previously identified and isolated from the four species by the Plant & Food Research team.

It is hoped that, like the controls for the pipfruit industry, new pheromones and methods for artificially synthesising these in the laboratory can be found in order to create a MD control similar to the combination ISOMATE®4Play dispenser - developed by Plant & Food Research for manufacture by Shin-Etsu Fine Chemicals (Japan) and marketed by Etec Crop Solutions Ltd - that is now used on the majority of the 2,000 hectares of New Zealand’s apple orchards.

“Mating disruption tools for use in the avocado industry is an exciting prospect,” says New Zealand Avocado CEO, Jen Scoular.

“Applying effective non-chemical controls is an innovative alternative approach to meet the strict phytosanitary requirements of premium markets.”

“We see the use of core funding investment by Plant & Food Research to initiate this research as a great decision. NZ Avocado will also be contributing funds and looks forward to working together and using the research to support the growth of the avocado industry in New Zealand”.

Emma Timewell
Communications Manager, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
Telephone: +64-9-925 8692
Mobile: +64-21-2429 365

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