Opportunities from plant signalling for sustainable management of pests: Lessons from ecosystem management for development by GM

Tuesday 22 May 2018, 1.00PM

Speaker: John A Pickett, School of Chemistry, Cardiff University, UK

Natural plant defence can deliver sustainable integrated management of pests and other constraints on food production, and can now be developed using biotechnology. Showing particular promise are those natural defence processes involving secondary metabolite based stress signalling by plants.  For approaches involving ecosystem management, including use of companion plants, secondary metabolism is now, with new molecular tools, readily exploited.  The tetranorterpenes (homoterpenes) acting as plant defence signals, particularly in the powerful enhancement of biological control of insects, and external plant growth activators, related to plant hormone systems, are targeted by selecting plants, from species biodiversity studies, for releasing these types of natural products.  Evidence of field effectiveness comes from development in regions relying on resource poor farming and where less sustainable seasonally applied chemical toxicants, still the main intervention in industrialised agriculture, may not be available.  Although natural biosynthetic pathways are utilised in selecting or breeding smart companion plants, GM approaches offer evidenced opportunities. Furthermore there are growing synthetic biology examples now being explored for developing new pathways based on novel synthetic genes for improved plant signalling molecules.

Related Review

J.A. Pickett and Z.R. Khan (2016) Plant volatile-mediated signalling and its application in agriculture: successes and challenges. New Phytologist, Tansley Review, 212: 856–870

Location: K018

Email: biol-dmthub@york.ac.uk