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Getting rid of weeds: flies or pesticides?

Peter Tóth is a Marie Curie IEF fellow. Through his BIOBROOM project, he has developed a biological control method against "broomrapes", parasitic weeds that would be eliminated by flies, making the use of herbicides unnecessary.

Peter aimed at "understanding the broomrapes' language" and finding out how they involuntarily communicate with their natural enemy, the Phytomyza Orobanchia flies. He has determined the cause of insect attraction to parasitic plants and come up with a novel method to attract flies, what might prove extremely beneficial in order to trap them and deliberately release them in fields infested by broomrapes.

He conducted preliminary field studies in summer 2010 in Slovakia to test the "formula" he has come up with. He used a compound-based bait to attract the flies. According to Peter, "Nobody had done this before in this specific field".

His work might lead to the development of efficient herbicide-free methods for the control of parasitic weeds in sunflower, rape, tomato, legumes and other crops. "Biological control using the Phytomyza Orobanchia could be a powerful tool to solve the broomrape problem", says the fellow. His findings could significantly contribute to a reduction in the use of pesticides in agriculture and therefore minimise derived environmental risks (e.g. pollution).

Potential beneficiaries: Southern, Central and Eastern European countries like France, Italy, Romania or Spain, where the presence of Orobanche continues to increase, and also Northern African countries and Israel.

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