Some of the most aggressive pests of agriculture are insect larvae. These are frequently controlled by applying broad-spectrum pesticides, which are progressively being restricted due to concerns about their non-specificity and negative impact on biodiversity.
Insect sex pheromones, produced by virgin females to attract mates of the same species, present a sustainable alternative to conventional pesticides. Pheromones are already used for insect control as part of integrated pest management strategies, either for trapping the target species or by disrupting mating preventing them from laying eggs within the crop.
Chemical synthesis is currently the only approach for manufacturing insect pheromones but the unusual chemical characteristics of many insect pheromones mean that chemical synthesis strategies are not cost effective. For example, the sex pheromones of aggressive Coccoidea pests (scale insects and mealybugs) for which better control methods are highly desirable, have unusual cyclic structures of which chemical synthesis is both difficult and expensive.
The SUSPHIRE project aims to provide sustainable, low-cost biomanufacturing platforms for the commercial production of insect pheromones.