Combating insecticide resistance

Despite a major emphasis on developing novel approaches to pest management, synthetic pesticides remain an essential tool for crop protection in the UK and elsewhere. The efficacy of many of the most valued chemicals is being eroded through the evolution of ‘super-pests’ capable of surviving exposure to these products. This is directly analogous to widely-publicised cases of microbial resistance to drugs in the human health sector.

Insect pests resistant to insecticides in the UK include aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and beetles such as pollen beetle on oilseed rape. We have a close involvement in research to understand the molecular basis and epidemiology of resistance traits. Current research also involves meta-analyses of resistance cases to identify traits influencing the appearance of spread of resistance, in order to develop more accurate risk assessment schemes. The ultimate goal is to identify and implement strategies that can reduce resistance risks through the adoption of integrated pest management approaches and the strategic use of insecticide groups with different modes of action.

The University of Hertfordshire participates in the UK’s Insecticide Resistance Action Group (IRAG-UK) – a multi-sector partnership involved in coordinating resistance research and disseminating practical advice to growers.