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Transgenic plant grows insect sex pheromones needed for green pest control in agriculture
Posted by: Prof. Dr. M. Raupp (IP Logged)
Date: January 27, 2021 02:17AM

Scientists at ISCA, Inc., a green agtech company based in Riverside,
Calif., and their collaborators in Sweden and Nebraska have successfully
??grown? insect sex pheromone precursors in genetically modified strains
of camelina plants, creating a low-cost source of pheromones needed for
sustainable pest control.

The research team from the Lund University, Swedish Agricultural
University, SemioPlant, and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln,
modified the genetic code of these plants to contain genes of insects
and other organisms that guide the formation of the desired pheromones.
The plants produce insect pheromone precursor compounds in their
abundant seed oil.

ISCA, a world leader in pheromone-based insect controls, has grown
successive generations of the transgenic camelina plants and developed a
prototype product with plant-derived pheromones to control the cotton
bollworm moth (/Helicoverpa armigera)/, a major world pest species that
causes hundreds of millions of dollars annually in damage to cotton,
corn, tomato, chickpea, and other crops.

Results from an initial trial in Brazil showed that the ISCA formulation
with plant-derived pheromones performed just as well as a formulation
with pheromones made from standard chemical synthesis techniques. Both
suppressed/H. armigera/populations in bean fields by preventing adult
moths from mating. ISCA is also developing plant-derived pheromones
controls for the fall armyworm,/Spodoptera frugiperda,/another
devastating moth species.

The camelina plant innovation recently received a substantial financial
investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for further
development and commercialization. The $650,000 grant from the USDA??s
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) followed an earlier
$100,000 grant for an initial phase of the project, called ??Grow Your
Own Pheromone.? NIFA awarded the grants through its Small Business
Research Innovation program. The grant to ISCA will support ongoing
efforts to develop transgenic camelina strains that produce the sex
pheromones of other moth pest species and corresponding sustainable pest
control products.

??We are very excited with NIFA/USDA??s investment in our company,? said
ISCA??s CEO Agenor Mafra-Neto. ??Pheromone controls are the future of crop
protection, and ISCA??s breakthrough biological pheromone synthesis will
propel agriculture into a more lucrative and sustainable enterprise.
Efficacious pheromone controls are badly needed, especially now that
global agriculture faces increasing pest resistance that renders
conventional insecticides less effective and increasing pressure from
governments and consumers demanding ever safer and greener food production.?

The transgenic plants were developed under the five-year Oil Crops for
the Future research program funded by the Swedish Foundation for
Strategic Research.

??We are very happy to see that collaboration with ISCA will bring this
innovation to the market for the benefit of environmentally friendly
pest control,? said research leader and Lund University Biology
Professor Christer L??fstedt. ??In collaboration with ISCA, we hope to
develop new lines to target several other important pests.?

Pheromones are among the next generation of insect controls because they
protect crops by manipulating the behavior of problem insects, such as
by preventing them from mating or by repelling them away from crops.
Unlike conventional insecticides, pheromone controls affect only the
targeted pest species ?? leaving bees and other wildlife unharmed.
Additionally, pheromones do not leave harmful residues on food produce,
cause little or no environmental pollution, and are far less prone to
pest resistance.

The costs of synthesizing pheromones, however, have limited their
application. By having plants do most of the synthesis work, pheromone
production costs will be slashed. Biosynthesis in plants also eliminates
the need to use petroleum-based chemicals as feedstock and bypasses most
of the complex organic chemistry steps that are now required in
pheromone manufacturing.

The camelina plant (/Camelina sativa/) is a cousin of broccoli and
canola that has been cultivated as an annual crop for centuries as a
source of healthy cooking oil. Putting the plant to work to create
low-cost sources of insect pheromones is expected to give a big boost to
earth-friendly mating disruption controls for several devastating moth
species. In nature, the female moths release into the air a
species-specific sex pheromone to call males for mating. Applications of
the same pheromone in the field, however, create thousands of pheromone
trails that lead to nowhere. This makes it nearly impossible for the
male moths to find mates. The females are left to lay sterile eggs,
which prevents the next generation of highly damaging caterpillars from
hatching, protecting the crops.

Transgenic plant grows insect sex pheromones needed for green pest
control in agriculture - ISCA Inc. (

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