Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Novel delivery systems for pest management by disturbance of insect endocrine and immune systems, and enhancing biocontrol. - PS2102

In recent years there has been an increasing drive to move away from intensive farming practices towards a
more sustainable and environmentally sensitive approach to food production. In the field of insect pest management, this trend has been supported by Defra policy objectives aimed at minimising pesticide usage, and encouraging the discovery and deployment of more target specific, less environmentally harmful, alternatives to organophosphate insecticides and other broad spectrum neurotoxic chemicals. The recent review of farming and food (the “Curry Report”) reinforces this aim “….at the same time for the industry as a whole, to protect the environment and in the interests of safety we recommend that older, broad spectrum chemistry is replaced by newer, more selective, less persistent chemistry as soon as practicably possible….”. In response to these policy objectives, and to public and political concern about the continuing deployment of toxic pesticides, Defra (through the Pesticides Safety Directorate) commissioned strategic research (the former PI03 programme), to investigate alternative technologies for improved insect pest management. At CSL, this research concentrated on three main target areas as routes towards developing effective alternatives to conventional insecticides. These are: 1) Disturbance of the insect endocrine system, 2) Suppression of the insect immune defence system, and 3) Improving biological control methods through exploiting the physiological and behavioural interactions between insect parasites and pathogens, and their hosts.
These strategic studies are being progressed in projects PS2104(Endocrinology) and PS2103
(Immunology). To date, we have identified several novel technologies that show considerable potential either as replacements for conventional chemicals in pest management, or as alternative (i.e. non-chemical) methods based on augmented biological control systems. A number of these new technologies have been studied in “concept proving” laboratory experiments, but they still need further refinement to develop them to the point of practical take-up and commercial exploitation in mainstream agricultural and/or horticultural systems. The intention, via LINK, is to obtain industry co-funding to take forward the most promising findings, an aim endorsed by the latest Defra review of the research. However, discussions across industry indicate that such research is seen as very speculative (even for LINK) until plausible answers can be suggested to the key question of how the novel molecules involved can be delivered to a range of target species of interest. The purpose of PS2102 is therefore to provide a firmer basis for overcoming these restraints, for development in the wider LINK projects under discussion. CSL anticipate that PS2102 will be short-term in nature, being subsumed into the LINK projects in year 2 and thus acting as crucial ‘bridging’. In summary, new pest management techniques, based on the use of peptides and proteins with novel “insecticidal” modes of action, or on techniques designed to increase pathogenicity and transmission of biopesticides in target pest populations, will require different methods of delivery to those which agrochemical companies traditionally utilise. In response to industry’s technical concerns, this project is aimed at devising and optimising potential delivery systems, essential for promoting the practical uptake of previous and current research that is improving understanding of insect physiology and insect parasite and pathogen interactions.
Overall Scientific Objective.
To refine and develop efficient and effective methods for the delivery of novel, non-neurotoxic, insecticidal peptides and proteins based on naturally occurring molecules modulating critical functions of the insect endocrine and immune defence systems, and for the delivery and dispersal of (microbiological) biological control agents.
Specific Scientific Objectives.
1) To optimise methods of production and purification of delivery systems based on fusion proteins combining insect peptides with plant lectins using recombinant expression systems (including genetically transformed crop plants and/or baculoviruses) and direct chemical synthesis.
2) To devise and develop novel insecticidal fusion proteins incorporating arthropod-derived enzymes and venom components capable of controlling pest populations.
3) To determine the spectra of activity of selected insecticidal fusion proteins against specific insect pest groups.
4) To optimise bio-vector delivery and dispersal systems for selected insect biocontrol agents.

NOTE: The above objectives are planned to form the basis for one or more LINK projects, currently under discussion with agrochemical company representatives. Objectives 1-3 address their main concerns (see Section 9) about methods of delivery and the performance of these novel proteins as potential insecticides. Reassurance that relevant preliminary work is being conducted at CSL and that further research would not be unduly speculative is intended to encourage industry to pursue the most promising options, via LINK instead of PS2102 in 2004 (subject to LINK Sustainable Arable Programme full project approval). Therefore, work in PS2102 will scale down as LINK projects, devised more specifically by industry, come on stream. Objective 4 is a minor component of PS2102, taking work begun in the former PI03 Programme to an initial field test stage, as a step towards seeking (horticultural) LINK partners.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Novel delivery systems for pest management by disturbance of insect endocrine and immune systems, and enhancing biocontrol.   (80k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2004

Cost: £300,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Central Science Laboratory
Arable Farming              
Biological Control              
Crop Pests              
Endocrine Disruptors              
Fields of Study
Pesticide Safety