Scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) in Hyderabad are synthesising chemicals to mimic effects of sex pheromones. These chemicals, released by insects to attract members of opposite gender, will help farmers tackle pests, reports The Hindu.
The synthesised pheromones attract male members of a wide variety of crop-damaging pest species, and are effectively helping many farmers in the state to cultivate crops without chemical pesticides.
This innovative use of sexual attraction in the insect world could help scientists encourage organic farming in the state.
“Sex pheromone secreted by a female, attracts the male pests. We synthesise these pheromones in the lab and place them in traps in fields,” B.V. Subba Reddy, who is leading the project, told the publication.
These synthesised pheromones are loaded in small silicone capsules about a centimetre long. Adult male insects, in their reproductive cycle, detect them and enter the trap. Expecting female mates, they are killed in the trap instead.
“Killing the adult male prevents proliferation of the pests. The eggs that surviving female pests lay in the absence of males are infertile. Eventually, the pest population dies (sic),” he added.
These pheromone traps are low-cost compared to their chemical counterparts by more than 50%.
“The cost of conventional chemical pesticide for a crop like brinjal or chilly is ₹8,000 per acre per month. It costs less than ₹1,000 to use pheromone traps,” said Vinod Tandra, secretary of the Eklavaya Foundation, working in association with IICT to help farmers adapt the technology.
Further developments in the technology will help the institute to equip farmers in Telangana and other states tackle the infamous pests pink bollworm from cotton, the yellow stem borer from rice and other borers that destroy vegetable crop.
Efforts are being made to make biodegradable or environment-friendly material to load the synthesised pheromone instead of using silicone, and also to develop pheromones to attract females. Using pheromones to attract female pests could rapidly reduce pest population, as they lay several eggs.