US agricultural company Becker Underwood, in collaboration with Plant Bioscience Limited, now holds worldwide exclusive licence on the use of jasmonic acid as a natural seed treatment to help cut down on pesticide use on some commercially-important agricultural crops.
Researchers at Lancaster University’s Environment Centre and Stockbridge Technology Centre found that plants grown from seeds dipped in jasmonic acid are considerably more resistant to pests. The chemical seems to prime some plants’ natural protective responses.
Early trials at Lancaster University saw promising results when researchers treated the seeds of tomato plants, sweet pepper and maize. Red spider mite attack on tomato plants was down by 80 per cent, aphid attack on sweet peppers cut by 70 per cent and caterpillar damage to maize was reduced by 38 per cent.
Applying jasmonic acid to seeds protects many crops for at least ten weeks after germination of the seeds. Treated seeds can also be stored and sown at a later stage.
‘We think treating seeds with jasmonic acid acts rather like immunisation, protecting plants for an extended period after treatment,’ says Dr Jason Moore, a member of the Lancaster team.