2 April 1999

Aromatherapy for grain crops

AROMATHERAPY for grain crops was one cost-cutting and environmentally friendly idea to come out of the Crop Protection in Northern Britain conference last week in Dundee.

Scientists knew that insect pests of arable crops use the smell of crops to find them. John Kirkland and a team from the Scottish Agricultural College used the same basis to attract helpful insects which preyed on the pests.

Mr Kirklands trial placed two flower extracts in a crop of winter wheat and found that it increased the number and activity of carabid beetles which preyed on aphids. In turn the number of aphids in the crop fell considerably. The flower extract was supplemented with synthesised aphid alarm pheromone (EBF).

"The use of semiochemicals like EBF and flower extract to enhance the number of predatory and parasitic insects within a crop, may mean pests can be prevented from reaching levels economically damaging to the crop without recourse to chemical pesticides," said Mr Kirkland. &#42