Atmospheric pest control offers alternative to spraying, say Dutch researchers

Treating plants with a current of warm air high in carbon dioxide and low in oxygen can remove a wide range of invertibrate pests without residue, according to Dutch researchers.

Tuta absoluta moth - image:Wikimedia Commons / Spedona
Tuta absoluta moth - image:Wikimedia Commons / Spedona

The CATT (Controlled Atmosphere Temperature Treatment) method has been extensively tested at a range of concentrations and temperatures by Wageningen UR researcher Yutong Qiu and her colleagues.

"It is a continuous search for balance," she explained. "To what extent can the temperature and CO2 levels be increased and the oxygen levels reduced, and for how long, to ensure that the eggs, larvae and bugs die while the plant remains unharmed?" 

The technique has already proved effective in control of the tomato leaf-miner moth Tuta absoluta, and in removing pests from parent plants held by strawberry propagators.

WUR research manager Piet Spoorenberg said: "There is a risk of products being removed from the market or bugs becoming resistant. By definition, these problems do not occur with this new treatment method."

While collective financing by the Dutch industry to commercialise the technique "is currently very difficult to organise," he added: "I cannot imagine that such a great opportunity to develop a sustainable innovation for a very real current issue will not be seized upon."


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