November 7, 2023


PHERA partner ISCA of the US has launched SPLAT FAW for applications in maize or other crops targeted by Fall Armyworm (FAW).

SPLAT FAW allows growers to reduce the use of insecticide through pheromone-based mating disruption by fooling the male insects into thinking females are everywhere but where they really are by filling the air with the female’s sex pheromone (see product sheet below).

The Fall Armyworm is a dreaded global pest due to its insatiable hunger for maize and other crops, coupled with its wide-ranging presence. Since 2016, this pest has spread from the Americas to virtually all but the coldest regions on this globe.

Under the auspices of the PHERA project, ISCA has earlier demonstrated that pheromone-based pest control in maize significantly reduces the damage caused by the Fall Armyworm.


September 7, 2023

Russell IPM develops mating disruption product to control yellow stem borer

As a partner of the PHERA Project, Russell IPM has developed an effective, affordable and sustainable mating disruption product for control of yellow stem borer. The DISMATE YSB uses insect sex pheromones to prevent pest reproduction. It has proven highly effective at controlling the rice yellow stem borer, achieving over 90% control in field trials. Learn more in this video.


August 31, 2023

New biodegradable solution for control of rice stem borer

SEDQ Healthy Crops of Spain has developed a new biodegradable pheromone dispenser for control of striped rice stem borer (Chilo Suppressalis). This means that this problematic insect pest soon can be managed through mating disruption without leaving dispensers behind in the field, reducing labour and easing harvest. The new dispenser complies with the European standard EN 13432, which requires the compostable plastics to disintegrate after 12 weeks and completely biodegrade after 6 months. 


April 11, 2023

Drones make it easy to apply pheromones in row crops

Pheromones can now be applied to many hectares at a time using a drone. PHERA Partner NovAgrica has developed an innovative pheromone-dispersing technology – PheroDrop – that gives farmers of row crops a practically feasible alternative to traditional pesticides.

Pheromones are used to control insect pests using a safe and environmentally friendly method called mating disruption. But their application in row crops has been hindered by lack of automated application systems. Pheromones are traditionally released from manually placed stationary dispensers.

First, NovAgrica developed a flowable PheroWax polymeric suspension that adheres to plants, releasing pheromones at a controlled rate. Then, it developed a cartridge system that could be fitted onto a drone to apply PheroWax in blobs. Now, NovAgrica has developed PheroDrop, which consists of a revolving multi-cartridge apparatus mounted on a drone. In one flight, PheroDrop can cover 12 hectares in 30 minutes. It’s an easy, fast and economical application method that can boost green agricultural practices.


April 1, 2023

PHERA in the Open Access Government magazine

An article in the Open Access Government magazine is highlighting how the PHERA Project has scaled up sustainable production of insect pheromones using yeast fermentation.
The full article can be read here.


March 20, 2023

Study confirms low toxicity of pheromones

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study of field trials with pheromone-based pest control carried out under the auspices of the PHERA Project has demonstrated a significant reduction in human and ecological toxicity in comparison with using insecticides

Bee on flower

Pheromones are gentle on nature, including bees and other beneficial insects, providing farmers with a safe and environmentally friendly tool to control insect pests in their crops

In early 2022, the Fraunhofer IBP of Germany concluded the first ever LCA study comparing insecticides with mating disruption using fermented pheromones (see article below – “The more insecticide we can replace, the better”). It was shown that the replacement of insecticides with pheromones “can eliminate or significantly reduce the ecotoxicity (30-50%) of conventional agriculture”. Now, the Fraunhofer IBP has repeated the LCA with current data from field trials done by the PHERA Project partners, including corn in Brazil and Tanzania, cotton in Brazil and Greece, and rice in Bangladesh and France.

As before, the researchers compared conventional cultivation using insecticides with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) using pheromones. They observed a significant reduction for four impact categories, including human cancer toxicity (up to 46% reduction), human non-cancer toxicity (up to 78% reduction), ecotoxicity (32-76% reduction) and consumption of minerals and metals (9-66% reduction). These results show an even broader positive impact than the first LCA study, says Maike Illner, scientific researcher in the Department of Life Cycle Engineering, Fraunhofer IBP.

“The positive impact is a direct result of replacing insecticide with pheromone, and it gets even better when we incorporate the yield changes observed in the field trials. Especially in the case of corn in Brazil, where the introduction of pheromone caused a 40% yield increase. When that is taken into consideration, we see a further reduction of the four impact categories by about 14-27 percentage points,” she explains.

Maike and her colleagues found that pheromone use has no significant impact on categories such as acidification, climate change, eutrophication, photochemical ozone and consumption of energy, which are all dominated by other inputs such as fertilisers and diesel needed to till the field. 

In addition to the LCA, the Fraunhofer IBP conducted a socio-economic assessment. It showed that replacement of insecticides with pheromones has little impact on the total working time in the field. However, when the pheromone-induced yield increase is taken into consideration, the working time needed to produce 1 kg of crop is reduced, thus freeing up time, which could be used for education, health or other income-generating activities. Depending on how the farmers react to this time-saving, the use of pheromone can lower social risks like poverty, gender equity, corruption and child labour.

The socio-economic assessment was based on data from the field trials, including quantity of insecticide, pheromone, fertiliser or diesel used. Going forward, Maike explains, it would be interesting to include information about the specific working conditions on site and information from long-term ex-post evaluations of the pheromone application, for example looking at potential improvements in health amongst farmers as a result of replacing hazardous insecticides with pheromones.


December 12, 2022

NovAgrica develops hydro-degradable pheromone dispensers

NovAgrica has developed a novel pheromone dispenser that disintegrates gradually, emitting pheromone continuously throughout a growing season, eliminating the cost of manually refilling, replacing or removing dispensers. Come harvest, and the dispensers are gone, dissolved by irrigation and rain.
The hydro-degradable dispensers are manually placed at the beginning of the growing season, after which they require no further handling (image:NovAgrica)

“Pheromones constitute one of the best alternatives to chemical insecticides, but they have been held back by lack of suitable application methods,” explains Dr Dimitris Raptopoulos, head of R&D and co-founder of NovAgrica, and continues:

“At NovAgrica we are trying to constantly develop new pheromone solutions by utilising the latest in innovative materials, components and technologies. Our hydro-degradable dispensers are just one example of this. Having to collect spent dispensers at the end of a growing season is an extra job most growers will be happy to be without.”

When asked about the composition of the dispensers, Dimitris hesitates. “Let’s just say they are made of an amphiphilic polymer matrix composite,” he smiles, refusing to reveal more. Amphiphilic compounds have both hydrophobic (nonpolar) and hydrophilic (polar) structures, making them soluble in both water and organic solvents.

Pheromones can be applied in many ways. Upcoming solutions using sprayers or drones offer clear mechanisation advantages over traditional dispensers, especially in field crops, but it can be unfavourable to apply the pheromone directly onto the crops. In cabbage, for instance, when pheromone is applied at the beginning of the growing season, some of the pheromone formulation will fall to the ground between the young plants or be covered by new leaves. Here, it is an advantage to use dispensers to release the pheromone into the air.

A field trial in a hotspot pest area

NovAgrica’s first hydro-degradable dispensers have been developed to control the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella). This is a major pest wherever there are cruciferous plants such as rapeseed, cabbages and collards, which includes just about every country in the world, as cruciferous vegetables are one of the dominant food crops worldwide. However, as the diamondback moth has developed resistance to most insecticides, it is difficult to control. A conservative estimate from 2012 put the costs of diamondback moth damage and control at $4–5 billion annually.

In August 2022, NovAgrica set out to test the hydro-degradable dispensers in Central Greece, deliberately choosing a hotspot for diamondback moth. Pheromones have proven themselves time and again when applied at low to moderate pest population levels, but what about at high pest pressure?

In addition, NovAgrica wanted to compare the efficacy of two types of diamondback moth pheromone, which consists of a blend of three chemical compounds – Z11-16:Ald, Z11-16:OAc and Z11-16:OH – by testing one blend produced via traditional chemical synthesis and another via biological fermentation, a new and cost-efficient manufacturing method developed by BioPhero, another partner of the PHERA Project.

Finally, NovAgrica wanted to confirm that early application increases the efficacy of pheromone-based pest control. Thus, the company divided the four-hectare trial area into four sub-plots – chemical pheromone applied at transplant, chemical pheromone applied at cupping, fermented pheromone applied at transplant and fermented pheromone applied at cupping (see cabbage growth stages), comparing with a control field about 50 metres away from the trial area.

The results were ready by October. Firstly, NovAgrica found no difference in efficacy between chemical and fermented pheromones. They control diamondback moth equally well – as long as the dispensers are placed in the field early in the growing season. In an area with a high population of diamondback moth, the dispensers must be placed when the cabbages are transplanted to the field to offer satisfactory pest control.

The hydro-degradable dispensers are placed on 60 cm-tall bamboo sticks, right above the height of a fully grown cabbage, to ensure unhindered pheromone emission and full exposure to the irrigation system. As they are placed manually, the dispensers are perfect for crops like cabbage, which often is manually fertilised or weeded. The left-behind sticks are slight enough to pose no challenge to harvest machinery (image: NovAgrica)


What’s next?

This field trial was the first of several trials to come with the objective to optimise the further development of the hydro-degradable dispensers, Dimitris Raptopoulos says.

“Being a pilot experiment, this was an initial attempt at testing the development of the hydro-degradable dispenser in real field conditions. Next year, we plan to repeat the experiment on a wider area with a view to optimise several parameters,” he explains.

Some of the parameters include:

  • Use more pheromone
    NovAgrica used a pheromone dose of 200 g/ha, which proved suboptimal in an area with high pest pressure. In addition, NovAgrica will also experiment with more dispensers at the perimeter of the field to address cross-boundary migration of moths from surrounding cabbage fields.
  • Combine with insecticide
    NovAgrica is considering applying insecticide before placing the dispensers to reduce the initial pest population pressure, both in the trial and surrounding areas. 
  • Optimise dispenser degradation
    NovAgrica wants to ensure the dispensers are completely dissolved by the end of the growing season.


NovAgrica manufactures biological and chemical products to be used in integrated pest management (IPM) programmes for plant protection. The Greek company specialises in semio-chemicals like pheromones. NovAgrica is a partner of the EU-funded Pheromones for Row Crop Applications (PHERA) project, which pulls together some of the leading players in biologically based pest control. The project’s objective is to develop radically cheaper pheromones that will allow farmers of row crops to use mating disruption to control pests.


November 9, 2022

PHERA in the Project Repository Journal

An article in the Project Repository Journal is highlighting how the PHERA Project has developed the next generation of pest control in agriculture.
The full article can be read here.


September 12, 2022

NEWSLETTER – September 2022

As field trials of pheromone-based mating disruption continue, the PHERA Project is entering a commercial phase. Partners are beginning to develop marketable pheromone products based on results obtained through the project, and one consortium partner has been acquired by FMC Corporation, neatly demonstrating the significant impact of the PHERA Project (newsletter can be downloaded below).

August 22, 2022

The PHERA Project gives rise to commercial pheromone products 

PHERA partner Russell IPM of the UK is now offering commercial pheromone products for the control of the fall armyworm. This destructive pest poses a serious economic threat to farmers worldwide with its appetite for more than 80 different plants, including important food crops like corn and rice. Exacerbated by an unsettling ability to develop resistance to common insecticides, the fall armyworm is becoming increasingly difficult to control. It is in this light that Russell IPM has developed new solutions based on mating disruption for sustainable control of the fall armyworm. The company uses the insect’s own sex pheromones to disrupt its reproduction cycle.

Russell FAW mating disruption brochure


August 8, 2022

Biological farming methods increase rice yield in Bangladesh

A field trial in Northern Bangladesh has expertly demonstrated how integrated pest management (IPM) can increase yields while minimising the use of chemical insecticides. It is a win-win solution for farmers and the environment alike.

The field trial was carried out by Russell IPM of the UK under the auspices of the PHERA project with the objective to provide a viable alternative to chemicals. Farmers in Bangladesh typically treat their rice crops with chemical insecticides 5-8 times every season, explains Dr Nayem Hassan, Russell IPM’s Director of Research.

“When these farmers see the first whitehead in their rice field they panic, and not without reason, as stem borers can spoil their entire crop and, thus, their livelihood. They rush off to the agrochemical dealer and buy conventional synthetic chemicals because they haven’t got an alternative. Now we can tell them there is an alternative,” he says.

Ideally, pesticides should be applied to keep pests, diseases and weeds below their economic damage threshold without harming humans and the environment. However, this has not been the case historically. IPM seeks to minimise the use of toxic chemicals by applying a combination of biological, chemical, physical and cultural crop management practices.

In this trial, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, Russell IPM utilised a three-dimensional approach to successfully control one of the most destructive pests of rice crops in Asia – the yellow rice stem borer.

First, Russell IPM applied mating disruption to control the stem borers. Mating disruption is a method that prevents insects from multiplying by spreading their pheromone in a field. Female insects release a pheromone to attract a mating partner, producing an olfactory trail for the males to follow – unless a farmer scrambles it by spreading the same pheromone in the field. Now, with the entire field smelling like females, the insects cannot find each other to mate and proliferate.

To reduce the initially high population of stem borers, Russell IPM also included a one-off application of a locally registered biological insecticide, Biomax-M. Biomax-M contains a microbial extract as its active ingredient, a natural fermentation product of the soil bacterium Streptomyces avermitilis.

Bangladesh mating disruption

What is Lycomax?

Lycomax is a specialised soil amendment product that deploys nature’s own weapons to control pests. It recharges the soil with the same beneficial organisms that nature uses to keep insect populations in balance, such as the parasitic soil fungus Metarhizium anisopliae and other naturally occurring soil micro-organisms and plant nutrients. As a result, Lycomax controls pests in several ways:

  • Re-establishing the soil’s microbial fauna to allow for growth of natural pest enemies
  • Increasing plant nutrient absorption for enhanced crop growth and yield
  • Boosting plants’ systemic acquired resistance (SAR) analogous to the human immune system

As Lycomax is based on natural organisms, which can grow and multiply in the soil, one simple application provides season-long protection.

Finally, to make the rice plants generally more resilient, Russell IPM applied its own Lycomax, a microbial insecticide that combats the pupal population in the soil and debris. With more than 15 years of research and development behind it, Lycomax has proven to produce healthier plants that require less fertiliser, pesticide and water due to their enhanced ability to defend themselves against pests, disease and environmental stresses (see box).

The trial was carried out in the intermediate Kharif-II growing season from July to October 2021. The trial area included about 10 hectares pooled from several farmers. Bangladesh may grow rice on more than 10 million hectares of land, or about 80% of its cropping land, but the average farm size is no larger than half a hectare.

Russell IPM found that the occurrence of whitehead and dead heart – clear signs of stem borer infestation – in the trial plot was about half of the neighbouring control plot. More importantly, the yield was over 40% higher in the trial plot. Thus, the field trial irrevocably showed the advantage of biological methods, not only for the farmer but also for the environment. Using less and fewer chemicals will benefit other insects, animals and humans.

Bangladesh prioritises biological solutions in a quest to reduce its consumption of pesticides. In this regard, there are over 40 biological insecticides which have been registered in Bangladesh. Since 2018, Russell IPM has collaborated with the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and the Department of Agricultural Extension on a government-funded, five-year project for the development of IPM programmes for vegetables, fruits and betel vine. Now the time has come to develop a biorational solution for rice. Russell IPM, therefore, plans to conduct further IPM field trials in Bangladesh during the other rice growing seasons, Dr Shafiqul Aktar, Russell IPM’s Country Manager in Bangladesh, says.

April 21, 2022

Pest control of the future: pheromone application by drone

PHERA partner NovAgrica of Greece has developed a smart way to outsmart pests in row crops. The company uses a drone to apply a pheromone formulation that controls the cotton bollworm. It is a safe and sustainable method that also is economical on time and labour.



March 9, 2022

NEWSLETTER – March 2022

Having successfully demonstrated that insect pheromones can be produced cost-efficiently at an industrial scale using yeast fermentation, the PHERA partners are now testing various pheromone formulations in field trials. Our latest newsletter provides an overview of field trials – so far – and also takes a look at the first life cycle assessment (LCA) study comparing insecticides with mating disruption using fermented pheromones. Download it below: 

March 8, 2022

Pheromones control fall armyworm in Brazil

PHERA partner ISCA Inc. of the US has shown that pheromone-based pest control in maize nearly halves the damage caused by the Fall Armyworm (FAW).

“In these trials we have shown that the Fall Armyworm can be controlled sustainably by using inexpensive mating disruption solutions, bringing hope to the many people around the globe stricken by the impact of this invasive species,” said ISCA CEO and Founder Dr Agenor Mafra-Neto. 

The FAW is becoming one of the most dreaded pests in the world due to its voracious appetite for maize and many other crops combined with its widespread distribution. Since 2016, this pest has spread out of the Americas to nearly all but the coldest regions of the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has even developed the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control, recognizing that “sustainable FAW management will preserve the food and nutrition security of 600 million people worldwide”. Maize is a staple food in Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America.

The key word here is “sustainable” because the FAW is close to impossible to control by conventional chemical means. The insect is developing resistance to insecticides at an alarming pace. It is therefore widely acknowledged that the FAW can only be controlled using a combination of strategies such as integrated pest management (IPM) with pheromones as an essential component.

ISCA tested four combinations of two of their products – Noctovi and SPLAT FAW. Noctovi is an insect attractant designed to mimic the odours produced by sugar-rich flowers favoured by moths of the Noctuidae species, including the FAW. SPLAT FAW is an attract-and-kill product containing the FAW pheromone and an insecticide. ISCA reduced the use of insecticide by combining it with pheromone-based mating disruption – the art of fooling the FAW male insects into thinking females are everywhere but where they really are by filling the air with the insect’s sex pheromone.

“Conventional pest control is really inefficient. It relies on farmers bringing the pesticide to the pest, and they have to cover every leaf of every plant to kill the pest by contact. Pheromone-based pest control, on the other hand, attracts the pest, is efficient when applied in spaced dollops in the field and does not pollute the environment or harm non-targeted species,” explained Agenor Mafra-Neto.

The trials were carried out in the Matto Grosso State in Brazil on a total area of about 300 hectares in 2020/21. Not only did ISCA find that the damage of maize cobs was nearly halved, the company also recorded an increase in yield of about 40%.

ISCA Inc. is an agricultural biotech company that harnesses the power of semiochemicals such as pheromones to offer the next generation of insect control. ISCA means “lure” in Portuguese – fitting because the company uses semiochemicals to manipulate insect behaviour to deter them from destroying crops. The company is based in Riverside, California, with subsidiaries in Brazil, Costa Rica and India.

Maize plant damaged by fall armyworm
That mating disruption can be used to control the fall armyworm in a sustainable and safe way makes a big difference to the many people around the world whose staple food crops are threatened by this pest


February 21, 2022

The first life cycle assessment of pheromone-based mating disruption versus insecticides is clear:
The more insecticide we can replace, the better

Spraying insecticide in rice field
Replacing insecticides with pheromones is good for the health of farmers and the environment alike

Replacing insecticides with pheromone-based mating disruption can reduce ecotoxicity significantly. This is the result of a life cycle assessment (LCA) study carried out by Fraunhofer IBP, a German life cycle expert, which BioPhero partners with under the EU-funded OLEFINE and PHERA projects.

The study compared conventional cultivation using conventional chemicals, irrigation and machinery with three Integrated Pest Management (IPM) scenarios, where the insecticide was replaced by pheromone in varying quantity and yield effects.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is by many seen as the answer to increases in pesticide use, insect resistance and environmental and human health concerns. The Food and Agriculture Organisation, which promotes IPM,[i] defines IPM as “the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques (…) to grow healthy crops and minimise the use of pesticides, reducing or minimising risks posed by pesticides to human health and the environment for sustainable pest management.”[ii]

Ideally, pesticides should be applied to keep pests, diseases and weeds below their economic damage threshold without harming humans and the environment. Pests must be controlled to a level that allows sustainable crop production, but there is no need to kill every single insect in a crop. This is what underpins IPM. By using a combination of biological, chemical, physical and crop-specific (cultural) management strategies and practices, IPM seeks to minimise the chemical component to need-based application of less hazardous pesticides.

The Fraunhofer study found that pheromone-based mating disruption “can eliminate or significantly reduce the ecotoxicity (30-50%) of conventional agriculture through  replacement of conventional insecticides”. The degree of impact depends on the crop and, hence, the type of insecticide used (the study looked at five different crops in three different countries – corn in the US, soybean in Brazil and brassica cabbages, cotton and grapes in Greece).

The best improvement was observed in US corn sprayed with the commonly used pyrethroid insecticide, Lambda Cyhalothrin. Ecotoxicity was reduced to almost 0, while human toxicity (non-cancer effects) was reduced by 80%. In fact, the toxicity of Lambda Cyhalothrin is so predominant that the impacts caused by other pesticides in the study, including the herbicide Glyphosate and the fungicide Folpet, are negligible. In comparison, the study saw a reduction in ecotoxicity of more than 50% in soybeans in Brazil and almost 30% in grapes in Greece.

In this study it was assumed that the entire amount of insecticide would be replaced by pheromone. In real life, this may not be realistic, but the more insecticide we can replace with pheromones, the better for the environment.

Fraunhofer IBP is a German research institute rooted in building physics and urban planning with a designated Department of Life Cycle Engineering. Under the auspices of the EU-funded OLEFINE and PHERA Projects, Fraunhofer has used life cycle assessment (LCA) methods to assess the sustainability of the projects’ pheromone products and their application.


The first LCA study of its kind

This is the first LCA study comparing insecticides with mating disruption using fermented pheromones. 

In the study, Fraunhofer compared the environmental impacts of production and use of conventional insecticide with those of pheromone. Parameters examined included climate change, energy use, acidification, terrestrial eutrophication, photochemical ozone formation and toxicity (freshwater ecotoxicity and human toxicity (cancer effects) and human toxicity (non-cancer effects)). 

The research institute quickly ran into limitations of the existing LCA models. Life cycle assessments of pesticides are subject to many uncertainties as pesticides impact the entire environment, not just a target organism. Finding the balance between too simple and too complex is a challenge in life cycle assessments.

The current standard model “USEtox” is recommended by the European Commission for use in Product Environmental Footprint calculations, but with caution. 





January 24, 2022

Pheromone solutions protect conservation area

The Ebro Delta is one of the most important wetlands in Europe. It is well worth protecting. There is just one problem. The Ebro Delta is interspersed by marshes and paddy fields that traditionally are treated with pesticides to kill insect pests. The futility of this biological tug-of-war is clear for all to see. But what to do? Spoiler alert – the solution involves pheromones and PHERA partner SEDQ of Spain. 

Pheromones make it possible to farm in the Ebro Delta
Pheromone-based mating disruption has proven its impact in the Ebro Delta

The Ebro Delta of Spain spans more than 30,000 hectares (320 km2). Its lagoons, marshes, pans and beaches shelter 77 protected plant and vertebrate species. With more than 343 species of birds recorded, it is a haven for birdwatchers. Not surprisingly, part of the area is a designated Natural Park in Spain and protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, the Ramsar Convention and UNESCO.

Unfortunately, the 7,800-hectar Natural Park is surrounded by 22,000 hectares of rice, a favoured crop of the striped rice stemborer (Chilo Suppressalis). This is a pest notoriously difficult to control. On hatching from the eggs, the larvae quickly bore into the rice stem, where they stay until they emerge from the pupae, making them difficult to control with traditional insecticides. As a result, the Ebro Delta was sprayed with hundreds of thousands of litres of aggressive insecticides such as organophosphates in the 1980s and 1990s, killing off pests and beneficial insects alike, along with birds, fish, amphibians and other lifeforms. 

Something had to be done, and that something became the introduction of pheromone-based mating disruption. Pheromones are natural molecules secreted by moths in particular to attract a mate. If a farmer disperses the same pheromones in a field, the insects’ I-am-here pheromone trail is veiled, and they can’t find each other. No mating means no eggs and no plant-munching larvae.

The transition from insecticides to mating disruption in the Ebro Delta happened gradually in cooperation with SEDQ, a Spanish company specialising in biological pest control solutions based on pheromones. The growers began with mass trapping in 2000, using pheromone-loaded traps to attract the moths, combined with aerial spraying if needed, and only if needed. In 2012, they introduced mating disruption, and by 2015, all 22,000 hectares of rice were cultivated using mating disruption only.

The results speak for themselves. Today, the growers of the Ebro Delta have almost eliminated the use of pesticide – only a few percent of cultivated area need to be sprayed – to the benefit of the area’s fauna. Further south along Spain’s eastern coastline, one finds the Albufera Natural Park, another important wetland surrounded by paddy fields. Here, the growers were a little quicker at embracing mating disruption, spurred on by an impending ban on aerial spraying by 2009. A study of waterbirds in Albufera from 2009 to 2017 found that the number of breeding pairs had increased by over 40 times.

The pheromone blend used in the Ebro Delta is incorporated into a polymer dispenser together with UV blockers and antioxidants to protect the active ingredient. The growers simply have to place the dispensers on sticks in the field – and only once. Treatment no longer has to be repeated, and the biodegradable canes can be left in the field to decompose. It is easy and more cost-effective than conventional spraying.

Results like these drive the PHERA Project. This EU-funded project seeks to broaden the scope for pheromones. Although the efficacy of mating disruption has been known for more than 20 years, the cost of pheromone production has been a barrier to its deployment. Pheromones have until now been manufactured synthetically, a complex and expensive process, but the PHERA Project is scaling up a new fermentation method for production of affordable pheromones at industrial scale. The drop in price will make pheromones accessible for use in large-scale row crops.

The PHERA Project brings together the fermentation expertise of BioPhero with the production capacity of the Bioprocess Pilot Facility, the pheromone formulation and application skills of SEDQ, ISCA, Russell IPM and NovAgrica, and the life cycle knowledge of Fraunhofer. 


January 17, 2022

Pheromones for pest control: it’s all about timing

Fermented pheromone has outsmarted one of the world’s worst agricultural pests. In a field trial in industrial tomatoes in France in July 2021Russell IPM has reduced the population of Helicoverpa Armigera by about 75% in the centre of the field.

“The significance of these results is immense,” explains Dr Shams Usmani, Head of Pheromone Solutions at Russell IPMone of the PHERA partners, with a reference to the nature of the pest in question.

H. Armigera is feared due to its indiscriminate appetite combined with a remarkable ability to develop resistance to insecticides. Believed to have originated in Africa, H. Armigera is now a notorious pest in nearly all but the coldest regions of the planet. It has been found feeding on over 300 plant species from cotton and tobacco to maize, soybeans, sunflowers and a range of fruits and vegetables, giving rise to common names such as the cotton bollworm and the tomato fruit borer. 

As H. Armigera is increasingly difficult to control chemically, alternatives are urgently needed. This field trial showed that fermented pheromone is one such alternative. The pheromone used is produced by BioPhero of Denmark that has developed a unique fermentation technology to produce a pheromone blend biologically identical to the one used by H. Armigera to attract a mate.  

Russell IPM used a slow-release pheromone formulation in this field trial. The formulation was released using extrusion dispensers placed throughout the tomato field, thereby confusing the moths, preventing them from locating each other to mate, lay eggs and produce plant-munching larvae.  

The field trial illustrated that pheromones go hand in hand with other integrated pest management (IPM) tools such as manual screening for pests in a field. Despite recording an impressive reduction in the number of adult moths, the researchers still saw some damage of tomato fruits and leaves. A likely explanation is that the trial started after the first emergence of larvae, Dr Usmani explains. Timing is of the essence when using pheromones.  

Finally, the field trial showed that it is easier to control insect infestation at the centre of a field than along its boundaries due to migration of moths from surrounding areas. 

Russell IPM is a leading developer of integrated pest management (IPM) technologies. The company sells pheromones, traps and pest management supply across the globe.   

Russell IPM controls the tomato fruit borer with pheromones



December 27, 2021

PHERA fermentation technology can produce all types of pheromones

Industrial post-doctoral researcher Leonie Wenning, a scientist at PHERA partner BioPhero, has demonstrated that yeast fermentation can be used to produce pheromones other than those targeted by the PHERA Project. BioPhero has developed a unique technology platform for production of pheromones at a cost that makes it possible to use them to control pests in row crops. Instead of using conventional chemical synthesis, BioPhero uses yeast fermentation to produce pheromones. The PHERA Project has had as its targets to scale up this technology and develop new application methods for pheromones. Leonie Wenning has successfully completed a project on production of fruit pest pheromone, which confirms that yeast fermentation can be infinitely optimised for production of new types of pheromones, making new, emerging pest problems less of a threat. The project (Pheromones for ecologically friendly pest control in fruit orchardswas supported by the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme.


Leonie Wenning (right) has confirmed that yeast fermentation can be used to produce all types of pheromones

For biosynthesis of the desired pheromone (codlemone) enzymes from different insects species can be used, such as CpoCPRQ from Cydia pomonella or the desaturase XP_047991985.1 from Leguminivora glycinivorella capable of converting 12:CoA into E9-12:CoA and E9-12:CoA into E8,E10-12:CoA upon expression in a yeast cell. E8,E10-12:CoA is the fatty acid precursor of the codling moth pheromone E8,E10-12:OH.



December 2, 2021

Pheromone released by drone controls cotton pest

PHERA partner NovAgrica Hellas experiments with new methods of applying pheromone solutions for pest control in field crops.

Pheromones for Row Crop Applications (PHERA) is an EU-funded project pulling together some of the leading players in biologically based pest control. The project’s objective is to develop radically cheaper pheromones that finally will allow farmers of row crops to use Mating Disruption to control pests.

Pheromones are traditionally released from stationary dispensers, but NovAgrica Hellas is also developing flowable suspensions that adhere to plants and are endowed with special characteristics to protect the labile pheromone molecules and control their release. Most importantly, they can be distributed by drone, explains NovAgrica Hellas Head of R&D and Co-founder Dimitris Raptopoulos.

“There is a huge push towards making agriculture sustainable, but short of going backwards in terms of agricultural intensity, we need new technologies to drive the development forward, and drones are without doubt one of these exciting technologies,” he says.

There are several advantages to using a drone. It is faster, cheaper and less weather-sensitive than manual application and more environmentally friendly than mechanic sprayers. In fact, drones are already revolutionising the application of conventional pesticides. Building on advances in camera and GPS technologies for identification and treatment of weeds and pests in a field, drones are seen as part and parcel of precision agriculture in the future.

NovAgrica has now tested pheromone for control of cotton bollworm applied by drone in cotton in Central Greece (picture). The trial demonstrated that pheromone is superior at controlling cottom bollworm compared to the control plot. Equally, if not more important, considering PHERA’s mandate, biological pheromone proved as efficient as its synthetic counterpart in doing so.

Pheromones released by drone
A drone releases NovAgrica PheroWax (pheromone formulation) into a cotton field in Central Greece for management of cotton bollworm

June 23, 2021

NEWSLETTER – June 2021

The PHERA June newsletter is the first in a series, where we will explore in more detail the use of bio-pheromones. This issue provides the vision and explains the potential and reach of pheromone solutions enabled by the technologies and applications developed in the PHERA consortium. In subsequent issues we will look at integrated pest management IPM, precision agriculture, formulation technology, and CO2 reduction from a pheromone perspective. 
PHERA_Newsletter_June 2021
For a broad data-based review of biocontrol, check out this report from the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), released today. 
IEEP Report: Exploring the benefits of biocontrol for sustainable agriculture 
May 07, 2021


PHERA partners have produced the first pheromones for mating disruption in row crops.. Read More
April 21, 2021

Successful Scale-up of Pheromone for Maize Protection

We are proud to announce that Bioprocess Pilot Facility and BioPhero have collaborated within European project PHERA to scale-up the fall armyworm pheromone production. The process developed by BioPhero was executed in BPF’s fermentation and downstream processing department, giving high yields and excellent product purity. The fermented fall armyworm pheromone will now be tested in the field by PHERA partners. The fall armyworm is an important pest of maize in Americas and in Africa. The pheromone will be used to reduce the crop damage via environmentally friendly mating disruption.
October 5, 2020

PHERA Consortium Lead by BioPhero Announces Successful Scale-up of their First Pheromone Product

BioPhero, a spinout from The Technical University of Denmark developing a new sustainable and eco-friendly method for controlling insect pests in agriculture, has successfully scaled the fermentation process of their first pheromone product to 180 m3. Manufacturing pheromones at this scale will make them an affordable, competitive, and efficient solution for pest control and allow a significant reduction in the use of insecticides.
“BioPhero has developed and scaled the technology for biological manufacturing of pheromones at a record speed”, said Kristian Ebbensgaard, CEO of BioPhero. “We look forward to delivering the first pheromone to our customers, pheromone formulators, worldwide, and to expanding our pheromone portfolio to enable sustainable pest management in row crops. BioPhero and our partners are guided by the vision to make pheromone-based pest control a mainstream crop protection method, helping growers and AgChem companies to increase productivity in a sustainable way”.
While pheromones have been produced by synthetic chemistry for years, BioPhero´s yeast enables a natural production of pheromones similar to that of the insect´s, at a lower cost and without the use of toxic chemicals. Field tests on the cotton bollworm show that the activity of the biologically produced pheromone blend is equivalent to the activity of chemically synthesized pheromone components mixed in the optimal ratio.
The development of the technology and up-scaling was supported by Horizon 2020 funded project OLEFINE ( and BBI JU funded project PHERA ( and was carried out in collaboration with international academic and industrial partners.
This project has received funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 886662.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 760798.