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Application of pheromones and other semiochemicals for pest control in maize

Contract nr: FAIR-CT96-1302
Project nr: 1302
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/01/1997
Duration: 40 months
Total cost: 1,968,260 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,143,600 EUR
Scientific Officer: Arnaud BORCHARD
Research topic: Plant health

Mediterranean Corn Borer (MCB, or Sesamia nonagrioides) is a major pest of maize grown in the Mediterranean regions, below 45ºN. Insecticide control is largely inefficient and expensive. Spanish, French and Greek teams have studied pheromone composition, reproductive behaviour and the efficacy of applying pheromones to control MCB since the mid-80s. Using pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of MCB and other pests is, however, constrained by their high prices.

The main specific objectives of the project are:

(a) Completely identifying MCB pheromone in the different regions,
(b) Evaluating inhibitors of pheromone perception by the pest,
(c) Describing the role of the maize plant in MCB's reproductive behaviour,
(d) Cost and ecological optimisation of industrial production (synthesis and formulation) of a sprayable pheromone blend,
(e) Field evaluation of the efficacy of mating disruption against MCB, and
(f) Assessing the potential impact of pheromone application on maize biocenosis.

This proposal brings together two private firms and six R&D public institutions from four European countries. All of them are very experienced with working on pheromones and MCB, and in the last few years have obtained significant results in the research and application of pheromones for the control of MCB and other pests. The composition of the research teams (industrial and laboratory chemists, insect ecologists and physiologists, basic and applied researchers, extensionists and field workers) guarantees both a multidisciplinary and realistic approach and the practical application of the results.

Current situation/results:
The project is expected to end in April 2000. The main provisional results are
1. There are no significant differences in pheromone composition among Spanish, French and Greek MCB populations. Pheromone blend composition was studied by
(i) analysing gland extracts and gland effluents of females coming from the three different regions,
(ii) studying pheromone component biosynthesis in females by activating several enzymatic steps with pheromone brain activating neuropeptide (PBAN)
(iii) wind tunnel studies of the mating behaviour of MCB adults with several combinations of males and females from different regions,
(iv) recording MCB male catches in traps baited with different ratios of pheromone components and placed in maize fields in Spain, France and Greece.

2. Several fluorinated ketones showed a remarkable inhibitory activity of pheromone perception by MCB males in wind tunnel and field assays.
3. Maize is not needed for MCB mating. However the chemical composition of maize leaves may play a role in maize hybrid selection by MCB females laying eggs on the plant. Several molecules identified in leaf extracts have been correlated to higher oviposition rates. The provisional conclusion is that plant architecture and other physical characteristics may be involved in the selection of the host plant.
4. The process to synthesise the two principal MCB pheromone components, Z11HDA and Z11HDOL, has been scaled up and optimised according to cost and environmental criteria.
5. A sprayable liquid formulation of the two principal MCB pheromone components has been obtained. Formulation processes have been scaled up and optimised according to cost and environmental criteria.
6. The application of the synthetic and formulated pheromone blend has given good results when applied just before the second MCB flight begins. Criteria for application timing have been elaborated.

U.D.L. (University of Lleida)
I.R.T.A. (Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentaries)
Avda. Alcalde Rovira Roure 177
E-25198 LLeida
Tel: +34 973 70 25 71
Fax: +34 973 23 83 01


  • Paul BERNARD
    Fédération de Protection des Cultures
    Chemin de la Jasso
    F-11000 Carcassonne
    Tel: +33 4 68 71 18 58
    Fax: +33 4 68 47 46 45

  • Jan Jacobus DE VLIEGER
    The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research
    Plastics & rubber research institute
    Schoemakerstraat 97
    PO BOX 6031
    NL-2600 Delft
    Tel: +31 152 69 64 96
    Fax: +31 152 64 28 34

  • Jaume CASTELLA
    Sociedad Esparola de Desarrollos Quimicos SA
    Avda. Diagonal 352, ent.2a
    E-08013 Barcelona
    Tel: +34 93 458 40 00
    Fax: +34 93 458 40 07

  • Michel GUILLON
    Natural Plant Protection SA
    Avenue Léon Blum
    Parc d'Activités Au Pyrénées
    ZI Indusnor
    F-64000 Pau

  • Brigitte FREROT
    Route de Saint-Cyr
    F-78026 Versailles
    Tel: +33 1 30 83 31 44
    Fax: +33 1 30 83 31 49

  • Basilios MAZOMENOS
    National Center for Scientific Research Demokritos
    Patriarch Grigoriou and Neapoleos
    P.O. Box 60228
    GR-153 10 Aghia Paraskevi-Attiki
    Tel: +30 1 650 35 56
    Fax: +30 1 651 17 67

  • Francisco CAMPS
    CSIC - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas
    Jordi Girona Salgado 18-26
    E-08034 Barcelona
    Tel: +34 93 400 61 16
    Fax: +34 93 204 59 04
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