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28 March, 2022 - 15:40 By Tony Quested

PheroSyn and partners develop novel fruit pest solution

PheroSyn, a Hertfordshire company spun-out from Rothamsted Research to develop and produce novel pest pheromones, has secured an Innovate UK smart grant for a £400k project. 

The aim is to validate new high-value pheromones and scale the company’s production and distribution. 

The project is a 36-month collaboration with Rothamsted Research, the globally acclaimed agricultural research institute, and Andermatt Biocontrol UK – a leading supplier for biological-based plant protection and pheromone products to farmers and growers.

Midges are significant global pests of fruit production. Current management of midges usually involves the application of fossil-fuel based chemical pesticides that impact negatively on beneficial insects and the wider environment. 

PheroSyn’s approach is part of a global trend to move away from reliance on chemical pesticides in favour of pheromone-based integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.

PheroSyn will work with Rothamsted Research and Andermatt to develop sex pheromone systems to trap the pear gall midges and the pear leaf midge, and secure three years’ field trial validation to demonstrate their efficacy. Importantly, the project also includes end-user validation, and the establishment of a supply chain for R & D, manufacture and distribution of the products to farmers and growers.

Pheromones form a critical component of IPM but compared to other crop pests there are currently very few fruit midge pheromones available. This project will build on recent technological advances at PheroSyn and Rothamsted Research. 

The partners will develop green-chemistry based production routes for commercial scale production of the pheromones using renewable feedstocks. Efficacy of the pheromone products in trapping and monitoring midge populations in fruit production systems will be confirmed by Andermatt.

Availability of the pheromones for use in the IPM of fruit pests will provide significant social and economic benefit to the UK by producing affordable, safe-to-eat food, and it promotes zero-carbon agriculture through reduced use of chemical pesticides. The new pheromones are planned to become available for use in climate-smart IPM fruit production systems from 2023.

“We are excited to be working on this IUK-supported project targeting the management of destructive pear gall midge and pear leaf midges”, said Daniel Bahia, Business Manager at PheroSyn. 

“By collaborating with Rothamsted Research and Andermatt, we have established the production and supply chain for the pheromones at an early stage, enabling us to get them into the market at the fastest possible rate.”

“This is really great news for Rothamsted to see its public-funded crop protection research being turned into benefits for food producers and the general public”, said Dr Mike Birkett, Principal Research Scientist in Protecting Crops and the Environment at Rothamsted Research. 

“It highlights our commitment to developing pheromone-based solutions with the potential to improve overall productivity, sustainability and resilience in food production systems, and move the existing horticultural sector to net zero.”

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