Using endocrine control in insects to develop new approaches for crop protection

03 December 2018

Pesticides have a significant role to play in increasing agricultural production around the world and improving food safety. However, due to increasing awareness of potential adverse effects of pesticides on the safety of foods and on the environment, regulatory bodies in the EU are now restricting their use. This in turn limits the range of chemicals that farmers can use to control pests and disease.

The EU funded project nEUROSTRESSPEP aims to develop novel, insect species specific biocontrol agents based on the use of peptides that interfere with pest insect neurological functions while leaving non-pest species unaffected. nEUROSTRESSPEP is a Horizon 2020 project, funded by the European Union.

The consortium of 14 partners, covering the full spectrum from research lab to test field, including world-leading researchers, European companies, government agencies and knowledge sharing networks. The project benefits from the expertise of neuroscientists, ecologists, entomologists, biochemists, chemists, physiologists, commercial companies, as well as communication and dissemination experts.

The project uses cutting-edge scientific advances to combat insects that cause severe damage to vitally important EU and global crops. This meets the urgent need for novel, specific approaches to control insect pests in light of the increased prevalence of insect resistance to existing pesticides, as well as forthcoming legislation, which will limit the use of current insecticides.

The project develops novel, insect species-specific biocontrol agents based on the use of neuropeptides that interfere with pest insect neurological functions while leaving non-pest species unaffected. Neuropeptides (or peptide hormones) regulate key biological processes in all vertebrate animals, including insects. Hormonal neuropeptides regulate many aspects of insect physiology and development, including feeding, growth, and reproductive behavior. These neuropeptides can selectively disrupt specific physiological processes, and thus reduce survival and reproduction of target (pest) species. These "special agents" or their synthetic analogues, mimetics, agonists or antagonists may be more effective tools in combating insect pests in an environmentally sound manner than the use of conventional pesticides.

The project aims to develop novel agents that will target specific pest insects of cereals, horticultural crops, vegetables and forestry.

You can find out more about the project on its website and download from there the project brochure.

Dr Liliya Serazetdinova,
Secretary of the SCI Agrisciences Committee

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