New technique targets pesticide-resistant insects

Australian and UK scientists have developed a technique to effectively control the 'super pests' that are highly resistant to pesticides used on important food and fibre crops worldwide.

The technique, patented by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and Rothamsted Research (UK), has proved effective against key insect pests that have evolved resistance to pesticides used in many agricultural industries, including horticulture and field crops.

Results of the research including details of scientific trials conducted in Australia, Spain and South Africa, are being presented today (Friday October 8) at the 2nd European Whitefly symposium in Croatia.

NSW DPI Principal Research Scientist, Dr Robin Gunning, said the technique was effective on insects that have developed a metabolic resistance to pesticides.

These include the cotton bollworm, cotton and silver leaf whitefly, and diamondback moth.

The invention relies on the use of enzyme inhibitors such as piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a natural substance derived from sesame oil.

Dr Gunning said previous efforts to use PBO failed, because the pesticide was inactivated by the insect's metabolic enzymes before the inhibitor had a chance to work.

Dr Gunning and her co-inventor, Dr Graham Moores from Rothamsted, designed the technology so that it incorporates a time delay mechanism.

Using novel micro-encapsulated formulations, they are able to deliver the enzyme inhibitor and the pesticide in a single dose. Firstly, an insect's resistance mechanisms are deactivated and then, four to five hours later, the insect is exposed to the pesticide.

Dr Gunning said the technology had been found to be effective in some of the world's resistance 'hot spots'.

"In NSW and Queensland (Australia), we conducted trials against the major pest of cotton, the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), and achieved virtually 100%

Contact: Joanne Finlay
NSW Department of Primary Industries

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