Self Defense: Mimicking natural deterrent strategies in plants using adhesive spheres and volatiles


While chemical pesticides are crucial to protect our crops, their usage comes with negative consequences: human poisoning, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss. Our continued dependence on harmful pesticides has far reaching consequences, here in the Netherlands, and globally with seemingly few chemical alternatives. The natural defense strategies of plants include both chemical and physical mechanisms. In glandular trichomes, these come together. Trichomes are hairy leaf structures that both secrete metabolites and can physically immobilize small harmful insects. Inspired by nature, we will develop a completely new, environmentally friendly strategy for plant protection. We will use an interdisciplinary approach to mimic glandular trichomes with adhesive spheres that are edible, non-toxic, renewable, cost-effective, and capable of immobilizing herbivories and secreting volatiles which are either repellant to herbivories or attractive to their natural enemies. Additionally, we will directly assess this strategy in field trials for efficacy on the target pest, non-target organisms, and the application methodology. By incorporating volatile compounds that mediate the communication in multithropic systems of plants, herbivores and their natural enemies, our strategy will combine both natural mechanisms found in plants. Linseed oil is an excellent first candidate for a promising material as it has low cost and negligible negative effects on the environment and human health. In preliminary trials we were able to deliver sticky spheres on leaves that showed reduced leaf damage by thrips compared to untreated leaves. The fundamental research of this project, conducted in collaboration with world-leading companies in plant protection products will pave the way for an innovative, sustainable way of plant protection by combining bioinspired volatile and physical defense mechanisms. Several partners will be directly involved in the research, which will ensure fast industrial implementation of sustainable and cost-effective technology we aim to deliver.





Prof. dr. P.G.L. Klinkhamer

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Wiskunde en Natuurwetenschappen, Institute of Biology Leiden - IBL


01/05/2019 tot 01/05/2023