Insect pest control mainly relies on synthetic agrochemicals which are not sustainable because of several undesired effects on non-target organisms and on the environment. We propose a scientific consortium aimed at providing new tools and concepts to be integrated, together with other known control methods, for shaping sustainable pest management programs.
Different skills will be involved and combined in this multidisciplinary research network. Thus, chemists, entomologists and food technologists will work for finding eco-sustainable control methods for global pest problems in various conditions and habitats. In particular, the studied target pests will be: mosquitoes, house flies, stored product and crop pests with different feeding strategies (leafminer, chewer and sap-sucking insects) and attacking different crops (tomato, olive and various fruit crops).
New naturally derived biopesticides will be developed, characterized and tested for their target and non-target effects on model species of biocontrol agents (parasitoids and predators), pollinators (with particular focus on sublethal effects), and aquatic organisms. Toxic compounds produced by entomopathogenic bacteria and extracts from plants, widely diffused in the Mediterranean basin, will be identified and chemically characterized to understand which molecules have insecticidal activity, their mode of action and their stability over the time. Besides, new nano-sized carriers and formulations (e.g. sol-gel microencapsulation) for increased pest control efficacy, minimized phytotoxicity and non-target toxicity will be developed and tested for their efficacy and safety.
Volatiles produced by infested and healthy plants, fruits and stored commodities will be identified and tested for their potential attractiveness toward the pests (potential for mass-trapping in the field) and natural enemies (for enhancing their activity in the field). Similarly, the volatile fractions of the developed biopesticides will be extracted, characterized and tested for the repellence properties against the various model pests.
The research consortium aims at translating the obtained scientific results in new sustainable pest control strategies. A significant increase of the suitability of the pest systems is expected through the reduction of chemical inputs, and the intensification of the role of natural resources, such as arthropod natural enemies, microbials and vegetal extracts. Special attention will be paid to the dissemination of the scientific and technological achievement of the project through publications in technical and high impact journals.
Durata del progetto: 05/02/2017 – 05/02/2020
Partner: Dipartimento di Agraria dell’Università di Sassari, Università degli Studi di Catania, Università di Pisa, Università degli Studi di Messina, Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria, CNR.
Coordinatore: Prof.ssa Lucia Zappalà, Università di Catania
Responsabile scientifico: Prof. Luca Ruiu, Dipartimento di Agraria dell’Università di Sassari