Insects destroy a very large fraction of the global agricultural output – nearly 40 percent. The spotted wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), for example, feeds on ripening fruits. A nuisance especially in Northern California and Europe, it lays its eggs inside ripe berries, and, when its larvae emerge there, the fruit is destroyed. As a result, each year D. suzukii causes hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of agricultural damage worldwide.
Scientists at the University of California, Riverside have now identified a safe repellent that protects fruits from D. suzukii: Butyl anthranilate (BA), a pleasant-smelling chemical compound produced naturally in fruits in small amounts. In their lab experiments, the scientists found BA warded off D. suzukii from blueberries coated with it. The finding, when extrapolated to other agricultural pests, could provide a strategy for controlling them and increasing the productivity of crops and fruit.
Study results appear June 22 in Scientific Reports, an online and open-access Nature publication.
“Toxic insecticides are often risky to use directly on fruits – especially when they are close to being harvested,” said Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor of entomology and the director of the Center for Disease Vector Research at UC Riverside, whose lab performed the research project. “A safe and affordable repellent such as BA could provide protection and reduce use of toxic chemicals.”
“The natural repellents discovered by Dr. Ray are particularly promising for supporting multiple possible applications,” said Michael Pazzani, the vice chancellor for research and economic development. “The safe and inexpensive compounds are not only effective for the protection of fruit and agricultural produce from pests, but also from biting insects that transmit disease to us and livestock.”
This discovery is an outstanding representation of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UCR cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.
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