Could smell hold the key to ending pesticide use? UK scientists may have uncovered a natural way of avoiding the use of pesticides and help save plants from attack by recreating a natural insect repellent.
The effectiveness of the smell or perfume to function as an insect repellent was tested.
The team found that the smells repelled insects but in one case a reversal of behaviour – an attractant - was observed which raises the prospect of being able to develop a trap-and-kill device.
“We know that many organisms use smell to interact with members of the same species and to locate hosts of food or to avoid attack from parasites,” according to Professor Rudolf Allemann from Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry, who led the research.
“However, the difficulty is that scientifically smell molecules are often extremely volatile, chemically unstable and expensive to re-create. This means that, until now, progress has been extremely slow in recreating smells that are similar to the original.
Professor John Pickett, FRS from Rothamsted Research said: “This is a breakthrough in rational design of smells and provides a novel way of producing a smell with different properties and potentially better ones than the original but at the same time preserving the original activity.
“By using alternative substrates for the enzymes involved in the ligand biosynthesis (biosynthesis of the smell) we can create the appropriate chemical space to reproduce, with a different molecular structure, the activity of the original smell.”
The team hope that their research could provide a new way of designing and developing small smell molecules which would be otherwise be too difficult to produce by usual scientific and commercial methods.
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