Page last updated at 02:56 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 03:56 UK

Success for plants' pest control

A combine harvester and crops

Researchers have developed a potential new method of making plants significantly more resistant to pests.

Scientists from Lancaster University, who have conducted early trials, say their method could greatly reduce pesticide use.

Until now attempts at creating pest- resistant crops involved GM technology.

This method uses a chemical that is naturally produced by plants - jasmonic acid. Large-scale trials of the technology are expected this year.

Researchers have found that plants grown from seeds first dipped in the acid are considerably more resistant to pests.

The effect is to boost the plant's own defences.

The best results were on tomato plants, where attacks by Red Spider Mites were reduced by 80%, aphid attack was reduced by 60% and caterpillar damage was down by a third.

Good results were also obtained on maize, where caterpillar damage was reduced by 38%, sweet pepper where aphid attacks were reduced by 70%, and caterpillar damage to wheat was reduced by 65%.

BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh said these early results are promising, but that the true test will be large scale trials of the technology which are expected before the end of the year.

The work was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

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