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Bundesforschungsinstitut für Kulturpflanzen


Institute for Plant Protection in Fruit Crops and Viticulture

Inhalt: Functional and chemical ecology

Ecology is defined as the scientific analysis and study of interactions among organisms and their biotic and abiotic environment. A broad understanding of these interactions is the prerequisite for the sustainable control of pest organisms.

Pest populations in fruit crops and viticulture are influenced by antagonists (competitors, predators, parasitoids, pathogens) and climatic factors. Through a holistic study of biological diversity and the natural regulation mechanisms by which a community of natural antagonists exert their influence, methods can be developed to specifically promote these effects. This includes the shape of the habitat as well as the application of plant protection products without killing beneficial organisms.

Specific monitoring methods using infochemicals are an important aspect in biological control: Many insects and microorganisms use plant volatiles for the localization of food resources or oviposition sites. Pollinators are guided by both visual and chemical signals. Plants produce defensive compounds for combating pest organisms. Neighboring plants talk to each other and warn conspecifics in case of attacking enemies. Infested plants produce volatile compounds attracting predators or parasitoids which act as bodyguards and kill the pest organisms.

Infochemicals are also important in intraspecific communication. The most well known is the attraction of mates by sex pheromones. By identifying and synthesizing the pheromone components, they can be emitted by dispensers in the field, disturbing the mating partners which are unable to find each other resulting in mating disruption (e. g. Grape berry moth). The females remain unmated and cannot lay fertile eggs. Through the development of traps baited with chemical attractants, and other control strategies using attractive and repellent compounds, we are able to provide sustained targeted plant protection.