Keele researchers working to safeguard global food production against pests

Work being led by researchers at Harper Adams University and Keele University is helping to safeguard global food crops against devastation by pests.

A recent study, which has been published in the journal Pest Management Science, involved Keele’s Dr Joe Roberts and looked at the most effective techniques for managing vine weevils, a major economic pest of soft-fruit and ornamental crops globally.

Dr Roberts said that managing the vine weevils is crucial for reducing crop losses and requires an effective monitoring system, which can be difficult to implement as this insect is nocturnal.

The research team has set out to establish the most important factors that must be considered when implementing monitoring strategies for vine weevil, with a view to developing more effective methods of controlling populations.

Dr Roberts said that this is an important first step in improving management of this pest by helping growers detect the presence of the pest.

Dr Roberts said: “Our study shows that there are a number of important factors to consider when implementing monitoring strategies for vine weevil, including monitoring tool design and previous feeding experience.

“We tested a number of commercially available monitoring tools designed for a range of insect species to establish whether there was a particularly effective design, and then we investigated whether the efficacy of these tools can be enhanced using lures based on their host plants.

“Perhaps one of the most interesting findings from the study is that vine weevil show plasticity in their learning abilities and can be 'taught' to associate certain plants as potential food sources.

“All of this combined could have a major impact on how vine weevil are controlled in the future, as it provides accurate tools to monitor vine weevil that will enable growers to implement integrated pest management systems more effectively, helping to reduce crop losses.”