The phytopathology group of the University of Alicante (UA), led by Professor Luis Vicente Lopez Llorca, has discovered volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in fungi biological control agents that repel the banana's black weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus) - considered one of this crop's most serious pests worldwide - in an environmentally friendly way. The discovery was made within the framework of a MUSA project, a European project that has just concluded and that included the participation of thirteen teams of scientists from Spain, Italy, Belgium, Kenya, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia, among other countries, and the Regional Group of Banana Cooperatives of the Canary Islands (Coplaca).
The experiments allowed researchers to conclude that the repellent effect of VOCs works in the field since the compounds block the natural attractants of the insect (pheromones) that are used today to determine the presence of the black weevil in banana plantations, according to sources from the University of Alicante.
"Push and pull"
To achieve more effective control, AU researchers argue that new repellents and attractants (pheromones) should be applied in combination, using the Push and pull strategy.
This procedure consists of placing traps with repellents on the boundaries of the plantation and, outside them, traps with attractants that capture the insects so that they never reach the banana plantations and damage them.
The discovered VOCs can be obtained from fungi or via chemical synthesis, and are formulated in a simple way for field application. As a result, production costs are low and therefore repellents can be marketed worldwide.
Lopez Llorca highlighted that the research group he leads has managed, after completing the project, to patent at the national level an innovative and effective method that uses volatile organic compounds they discovered had a repellent effect against the banana's black weevil, an invention protected in other banana-producing countries.