Organic alternative to chemical pesticides discovered

12 April 2024

Terpenoids, which are organic compounds naturally found in abundance in plant essential oils, have received significant interest for their role in controlling plant defence mechanisms through the modulation of defence gene expression. For example, a study by researchers at the Tokyo University of Science, as reported by FoodNavigator, discovered that rose essential oil activates defence genes in tomato plants. This action attracts natural predators of plant-eating insects, thereby safeguarding the plants without resorting to synthetic pesticides. In a practical field test, the application of rose essential oil resulted in a notable 45.5% decrease in damage from tomato pests when compared to a standard control solution.

Most farmers rely on chemical pesticides to eliminate various pests, such as insects, rodents, and weeds, which they consider crucial for ensuring robust crop production. Nevertheless, the use of these pesticides is also causing considerable harm on the environment. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has highlighted that the extensive application of pesticides is a significant pollutant, contaminating our water, soil, and air. It contributes to the decline of biodiversity and the development of pest resistance. Moreover, there are associations between human contact with chemical pesticides and long-term health conditions, including cancer, as well as heart, respiratory, and neurological disorders.

Transitioning to farming methods that are more supportive of biodiversity is critical for reversing the decline in species variety. As emphasised by Annemarie Botzki, an agriculture advocate at the consumer organization Foodwatch: “About 50% of arable land in Europe is used to grow cereals such as wheat and maize. If pesticide-free cereal production becomes the norm, these 52 million hectares could be key in reversing the decline of biodiversity and reducing health risks from farm workers, people living in rural areas and consumers.”