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New STW-grant for study on crop protection

Dr. Kirsten Leiss and Prof. Peter Klinkhamer received 900.000 euro’s from “Stichting Toegepaste Wetenschappen (STW)” and the company “Rijk Zwaan” to develop plants that are resistant to thrips, a major agricultural pest all over the world.

A very important insect pest on tomato is the Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis). Originally from the United States, it has spread worldwide. Thrips feeding leads to substantial financial losses through direct damage and by transmitting virus diseases as Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus which may reduce marketable yields by > 50%. Mostly, thrips control depends on the use of pesticides, leading to problems of development of resistance, residues and toxicity. Therefore, the innovation challenge is to develop an environmentally friendly, non-toxic and sustainable manner of thrips control with an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach.

IBL-discovery of resistant tomatoes

Scientists at the IBL discovered a unique mutant of the tomato plant with a durable ‘mechanical’ thrips resistance mechanism in having so-called trichomes. Kirsten Leiss and Peter Klinkhamer want to discover the genes involved in the production of these trichomes and the compounds they contain. They collaborated on this project with one of the world’s largest breeding companies Rijk Zwaan.

New STW-perspective grant

The IBL-team, in collaboration with Rijk Zwaan, four major chrysanthemum breeders and the seed technology company INCOTEC, now aims at improving the resistance of tomatoes and chrysanthemum against thrips by boosting the plant’s own defence potential through manipulation of the biotic and abiotic environment. In addition, so-called NADES technology developed by Young Choi from the Natural Products Lab will be used for the application of compounds that increase resistance to thrips (NADES stands for Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents). Two postdocs, two PhD students and a technician will work on the challenging task to use the full potential of natural host plant resistance in crop protection.


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