Global group’s goal: Greener pest control

A consortium of international scientists, including those from the University of Cologne in Germany, intends to develop eco-friendly pesticides to combat biological threats accounting for 40 percent of annual crop losses.

With substantial backing from the EU’s Horizon 2020, a research and innovation fund, researchers hope to study insect species and influence their hormone systems. The initiative, titled nEUROSTRESSPEP, has been granted $7.7 million from the EU. Targeted pests include moths, locusts, aphids, flies and beetles, which eat crops directly and also spread plant viruses.

"At the Cologne Biocenter, we have outstanding conditions for structural clarification and only need a single specimen of an insect to be able to identify up to 100 neuropeptides found in the species," University of Cologne Professor Reinhard Predel said. 

Conventional pesticides currently do not discriminate between damaging and beneficial species; additionally, many specimens become pesticide-resistant. Their natural predators are sparse, creating a cycle of large population growth among the undesirable bugs.

As the scientists begin their study, Predel has clarified their work process by pointing out that the researchers will identify specific hormone systems of the harmful species, correlating them with those of desirable groups to make sure they do not overlap.

Results will be forwarded to scientists who then will study the hormones in detail and synthesize similar substances for possible commercial use.

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University of Cologne

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