Growers will be able to use insect pheromones to combat midges and weevils in legumes such as peas and beans.
It follows a £200k grant from Innovate UK grant to PheroSyn – a company spun off by Rothamsted Research to develop new ways of tackling pests. It is working with the UK Processors and Growers Association (PGRO).
Over 18 months, the partners will establish manufacture and distribute pheromone products to farmers to enable a smarter application of pesticides. PGRO agronomists will then trap and monitor midge and weevil popularions.
Management of midges and weevils is notoriously difficult. Food can potentially be exposed to pesticides when targeting specific stages of their life cycles – leading to possible contamination of the human and animal food chain.
PheroSyn business manager Daniel Bahia said: “There is a growing global trend away from reliance on chemical pesticides in food production in favour of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies.
“Demand for our existing pea and pear midge pheromone products has been clear, and this grant allows us to accelerate development of the next range of products, leading to affordable, safe to eat food in a way that promotes zero carbon agriculture.”
PGRO research and development manager Becky Howard said: “We are really pleased to be working with PheroSyn to help develop IPM tools for growers and to ensure a sustainable future for UK legumes.”
Measuring pest populations should be carried out before any decisions are made on applying insecticides, says the PGRO. It hsd produced a masterclass video to help growers understand how to trap and assess pest populations.
The PGRO says a range of preventative tools will be key for farmers looking to reduce cases of pea and bean weevil, while finding more sustainable ways of farming in line with new agricultural policy.
Rotation, cultivation, drill timing, sanitation and forecasting are all options that farmers can take advantage of to prevent damage caused by pests and reducing the need for spraying.