Find pests before disease

A new field of biology may be emerging to detect a plant’s early response to disease.

Plants emit a wide range of volatiles when they are infected with diseases or attacked by pests. It’s part of their defense mechanism and can attract useful predators and helpful parasites.

‘The Plant Whisperer’
Saber Miresmailli from UBC in Vancouver said,

“For better results in pest management, we should shift our attention from pests to plants because they can provide us with more accurate and reliable information about their health.

“We just need to learn how to translate their signals and understand them.”

He’s building a database of gases and volatile oils that are emitted from plants and plants under stress. His early worked showed that the volatile oil of rosemary stopped spider mites. Now he’s looking forward to a new system of sensors for pest management programs – an intelligent scouting machine. Early stage detection requires translating plant signals using olfaction sensors, an electronic nose, to follow chemical cues. [pdf]

Detecting plant volatiles at an early stage will prevent infestation from spreading and reduce the use of pesticides.