Knowledge Transfer Partnership to control thrips and whitefly

Posted on 20 October 2014

Keele University and Russell IPM Ltd have been awarded funding for a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to design improved traps for the control of thrips and whiteflies that have a huge impact on global food production.

Western Flower Thrips cause extensive financial losses of at least £3,000 per ha per season to soft fruit growers. The market is large and with 4,969 hectares of strawberries grown in Britain, the cost of damage in that area alone could run to £15,000,000 each year.

Whitefly attacks vegetables grown in greenhouses and open field crops. There are around 57 whitefly species that are particularly damaging to crops, not only by feeding on the plants themselves but by carrying disease-causing viruses as well. These insects are major pests in the UK and worldwide.

Globally, economic losses are estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The use of traps to control these pests will reduce the need for insecticides and thus contribute to environmental sustainability.

Keele scientists – led by Dr William Kirk and Professor Gordon Hamilton in the School of Life Sciences - will work with Russell IPM Ltd to transfer knowledge and skills to the company to improve traps for the control of thrips and whiteflies in greenhouse crops during the two year partnership. Dr Kirk and Professor Hamilton are international leaders in the field of insect trapping. They have carried out research on thrips and whiteflies that has been published in peer-reviewed international journals and international patents.

Russell IPM is one of the leading manufacturers of insect pheromone based monitoring and control products. Their core expertise is behaviour modifying insect pheromone and natural material based Bio-pesticides. They translate science into innovative products that provide safe, effective and ecologically friendly solutions to the agriculture industry worldwide.

Professor Mark Ormerod, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise and institutional lead for Environment and Sustainability, said: "Keele has a long established reputation for its research excellence in insect-borne diseases and chemical ecology.  This KTP award with Russell IPM provides an excellent example of how our internationally-leading research has huge societal relevance and has the potential to have major economic, environmental and health benefits."  


KTP or Knowledge Transfer Partnerships ( is Europe's leading programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness by enabling companies to work with higher education or research and technology organisations to obtain knowledge, technology or skills which they consider to be of strategic competitive importance. The UK-wide programme is overseen by Innovate UK (, the UK’s innovation agency, and supported by 16 other public sector funding organisations.

Russell IPM Ltd, Deeside, UK

For 25 years, Russell IPM has developed over 150 insect pheromone lures and several bio-rational pesticides. As the demand for residue-free fresh produce continues, Russell IPM is committed to help growers achieve the highest levels of safe and cost-effective insect and disease control. As recognition of outstanding achievements Russell IPM has been granted the Queens’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2011 and the Queens’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation, 2012.

Keele University

Dr Kirk and Professor Hamilton’s work has encompassed thrips visual ecology, behaviour, chemical ecology and novel control methodology and they have received funding from a variety of sources, including the European Union, research councils, charities and industry. Their work has included laboratory-based research at Keele and field-based research in the UK, Spain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Keele will employ a KTP Associate, Dr Clare Sampson, to work on the project.