A new bait method to lure-and-kill key pests in pulse crops is to be developed by researchers which could possibly replace blanket sprays of insecticides.

Pea and been weevels and bruchid beetles cause big yield losses in pea and bean crops, and control using pyrethroid insecticides has become less effective.

As a result, the Processors & Growers Research Organisation (PGRO) will start work along with a number of other groups this month to design and produce a control system for these pests of peas and beans over a four-year period.

“The beetles will be lured to simple devices, baited with beetle-specific attractive odours, where they will be coated with spores of an insect fungal disease,” said Becky Ward, principal technical officer at the PGRO.

See more: Pulse breeders braced for demand

She explained that when beetles leave the device they will spread the disease to other beetles, and this will cut beetle numbers and crop yield losses without damage to the environment or beneficial insects such as pollinating bees.

“The insect fungal disease occurs naturally in the soil in the UK and does not pose a risk to other animals. The attractants used are either insect-produced (a specific pheromone) or are odours produced by flowering peas and beans,” she added.

Monitoring systems are already available which detect adults when they begin migrating in the early spring which comprise traps which are used to aid spray application decision making.

The aim of the new project is to provide effective and environmentally friendly biological control of both pea and bean weevils and bruchid beetles, the researcher added.

The project is partially funded by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, with additional support from industry partners PGRO, BASF, Oecos and Exosect.

“The partners are starting detailed work on the project in October with research and investigations being carried out over the next four years,” added Ms Ward.