Development of novel semiochemicals for crop protection

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Chemistry


Due to pressure on available farmland there is an urgent need for sustainably enhancing food crop production. One approach to combat insect pests it to repel or attract them, using (semio)chemical signal baited traps, keeping them away from high value crops.

We have produced modified aphid repellent and attractant semiochemicals through a strategic chemical process using enzymes. A novel and highly attractive aphid semiochemical (DMGD) has shown high field attraction to a range of pest aphids and has been demonstrated in field simulating studies as offering pest aphid control by the push-pull approach with the push against plant colonisation provided by the natural repellent, GD, in the isoprenoid group of natural products and the pull by the related DMGD. Opportunities for commercial scale up have been identified and can now underpin field trials for aphid control and commercial testing specifically against the lettuce aphid in the high value field production of lettuce.


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Johnson LA (2020) Modular Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of Terpenes and their Analogues. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

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Radadiya A (2020) Characterizing human odorant signals: insights from insect semiochemistry and in silico modelling. in Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences

Description Synthesising enough material for field scale trials proved extremely resource intensive, so we developed a fully bio-catalytic synthesis (manuscript submitted) for the components of the push-pull system; germacrene D and dimethyl germacrene D. This allows a two step synthesis carried out in water using purified recombinant enzymes to replace a lengthly chemical synthesis requiring inert atmospheres, repeated chromatography and a highly-skilled operator.

Field trials are ongoing.
Exploitation Route While of considerable use to this project, the bio-catalytic synthesis technique we have developed can be applied generally to the synthesis of terpene and methyated terpene products. As many natural hormones and semiochemicals are based on terpenes with additonal methyl or methylene groups, this could have a wide range of applications for crop protection.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description The invention provides analogues of (S)-germacrene D analogue which have improved insect repellent properties compared to (S)-germacrene D analogue or which have insect attractant properties. 
IP Reference US2018271089 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact Further development has been supported by Super Follow-On Funding.