PASCO, Wash., June 18 --The strong smell of new-mown grass--or other damaged plants-- includes chemicals that attract plant-eating insects. This new information may help researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create new artificial plant odors with which to lure and trap insects. Peter J. Landolt, a researcher at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Wapato, reported the findings here today at the Northwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Insects rely primarily on their sense of smell to locate the plants on which they feed and lay eggs. The USDA is studying the chemical structures of the attractant plant odors in order to create synthetic odors that will attract the hungry pests.
Now work is underway on a new synthetic geared to protect potato plants, the region's second-largest crop. A new study indicates that the potato beetle is strongly attracted to the odor released by potato plants that have been chewed by caterpillars and carry the saliva of the larvae. Building on work previously conducted at the USDA, in which researchers identified and synthesized the chemicals in the saliva, ARS scientists are developing a synthetic attractant custom-tailored to lure the potato beetle.
A nonprofit organization with a membership of more than 155,000 chemists and chemical engineers as its members, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.