Proceedings IOBC wprs Symposium, Montpellier 1996

Technology Transfer in Mating Disruption

IOBC wprs Bulletin Vol 20(1), 1997
Witzgall P & Arn H (eds) - copies


Insects use sex pheromones to communicate for mating. Pheromones elicit strong behavioural reactions at minute amounts, they are species-specific and non-toxic. By permeating the atmosphere with synthetic pheromones, olfactory communication and mate-finding can be prevented.

The mating disruption technique had a head start. Soon after the discovery of the first lepidopteran sex pheromone in the late fifties, it was postulated that it should be possible to use synthetic pheromones for environmentally safe insect control - although virtually nothing was known about the chemistry and biology of pheromones at that time. Research techniques considered essential today, such as gas chromatography, electrophysiology or wind tunnel bioassays, were not available. The sex pheromones of economically important species and their behavioural effects had yet to be identified; synthesis, purification, and controlled release techniques had to be developed before practical applications came into reach.

In Europe, the grape berry moth was the first species to be controlled by mating disruption on a commercial scale. To mark this event, an IOBC meeting was held at Neustadt Wstr., where the field development had been made. Ten years after, the Montpellier meeting gives evidence that the mating disruption technology has reached maturity. Pheromones have become an integral part of many pest control programs and, in some cases, may even become more effective than conventional insecticides.

The Neustadt meeting of 1986 manifested the need for a better understanding of the "behaviour of moths and molecules". Since then, respectable progress has been made with the industrial synthesis of pheromones, controlled-release technology and the measurement of airborne pheromone. Growers and extension organisations have gained considerable know-how in applying the mating disruption technique. But even today, the lack of knowledge on aerial dispersal and mode of action of mating disruptant chemicals is the most serious obstacle for further developments.

The 37 years of research since the synthesis of the first insect pheromone have laid the ground for practical applications. A concerted effort of the scientific community, industry and growers must now be made to consolidate these achievements and to establish mating disruption as a reliable and cost-efficient technique. Our success will determine the public interest in further research in the field of insect olfactory communication and chemical ecology