PHEROMONES

The Project - The Evaluation - Overall Conclusion & Success Rating - The Main Findings - Lessons - Further Information

The Project

Since the late 1960s the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the ODA has developed expertise in the identification, synthesis and field implementation of pheromone chemicals for insect control and monitoring programmes. Pheromones are chemicals produced by one organism which influence the behaviour of other members of the same species, for example by attracting mates. Pheromone research has never constituted a formal "programme" within ODA or the NRI. The evaluation of a broad group of projects in which pheromones were at different stages of development and were used for different aspects of insect management, and which lacked a formal overall purpose, presents some problems. Nevertheless, it was possible to design, retrospectively, a logical framework with an overall hierarchy of objectives (i.e. Goal, Purpose, and Outputs) for this pheromone research. The objectives of individual projects included in this review can be placed at various points within this hierarchy.

The Purpose of ODA-funded pheromone research has been identified as the implementation of Integrated Pest Panagement (IPM) strategies incorporating pheromone technologies in developing countries. To support this Purpose, the evaluation concludes that the NRI was responsible for Outputs resulting in the development of pheromone-based monitoring and control systems for insect pests and an understanding of social and institutional factors affecting the adoption and implementation of pheromone-based technologies. Activities related to these Outputs included:

  • identification, synthesis and formulation of specific pheromones;
  • design, demonstration and analysis of population monitoring and control techniques which reduce environmental damage and increase yield and crop quality by reducing insect damage;
  • commercial collaboration, training and promotion of pheromones;
  • investigation of social and institutional factors affecting the uptake of pheromones.

The ODA provided £3.834m during the evaluation period (1981-1995), through a combination of R&D and TC funding, for 37 pheromone-related projects. A further £384,000 of NRI pheromone research was funded in six commercially sponsored pheromone contracts. Pheromone research related to cotton accounts for almost half the expenditure, while most of the rest covers rice; millet and other important cereals. Approximately half the expenditure was on projects with beneficiaries in Africa, and just over 40% was in Asia.

The Evaluation

The evaluation was conducted by Dr John Mumford of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (entomologist, team leader), Mr Simon Henderson of NRI (economist), Dr Keith Harrap of Science Connections Ltd (research management specialist) and Dr Martin Birley of Liverpool University (health impact specialist) during April-July 1995. The evaluators held a series of group and individual interviews and workshops with scientists and economists involved in the projects at the NRI, made field visits to three major project sites in Egypt, Pakistan and India, and met other parties (commercial and academic) in Britain. Project summaries and files were available for inspection.

Overall Conclusion & Success Rating

The tasks of selecting and marking Project Performance Criteria are made difficult by the number of projects included in the review, the combination of technically-driven research and development projects and implementation projects (with differing Performance Criteria), and the fact that research and implementation objectives have changed over time. Thus, the relative importance attached to either individual projects or specific achievements involves a rather subjective judgement.

Over the period evaluated, pheromones have developed from a relatively novel technology with limited implementation to a significant component of IPM Research carried out by the NRI has contributed directly to the development of several important pheromone-based pest management systems: monitoring systems in Africa (African armyworm, larger grain borer, Egyptian cotton pest complex) and Asia (American bollworm); a mass trapping system in Malaysia (cocoa pod borer); and a mating-disruption (control) programme for pink bollworm which is currently used over almost the entire Egyptian cotton crop.

As pheromone technology has developed the nature of the Technical Success criteria has evolved. while the identification and optimisation of pheromones represented significant technical success early on, these enter the overall log-frame at only the Activity level, implying less significance than the development (Output) and ultimate implementation (Purpose) of a monitoring or control system in which the pheromones are actually used. This conclusion is considered to be justified by the long period of support provided by ODA (more than a decade).

The evaluation concluded that pheromone research has been Partially Successful (B). Considerable technical success has been achieved in the identification, synthesis and field demonstration of new pheromones. Many of the projects successfully developed component technologies for IPM, and several examples of successful implementation have been achieved. There have been significant shortcomings in management which did not limit the fundamental chemical and ecological elements of pheromone research but certainly affected the potential implementation of pheromones and reduced the overall cost-effectiveness of the pheromone research programme. Neither project appraisal nor project management placed sufficient emphasis on the social and institutional output essential for implementation. Impact could have been significantly greater if project objectives and design had given greater attention to implementation of the technologies. This is demonstrated in the separate ratings in the Evaluation Success table for the major programme on cotton in Egypt (approximately 25% of the entire pheromone budget).

The Main Findings

  • Since the External Technical Review of 1981, NRI research, helped to transform pheromone technologies from an interesting idea to an accepted component of many IPM programmes throughout the world in the mid-1990s. Several major chemical companies and some specialised firms continue to be involved in pheromone production but some important agrochemical firms have not maintained their early interest
  • Successful use of pheromones in control programmes has mainly occurred where crops can be organised into blocks for area-wide treatment by government or farmer cooperative organisations, as predicted in the 1981 Review.
  • Activities in pheromone research involve a wide range of disciplines and range from chemical identification through field testing to socio-economic studies. The NRI identified and synthesised 25 insect pheromones, particularly from Lepidoptera and Coleoptera, during the evaluation period.
  • The evaluators found that procedures for laboratory chemistry and field optimisation were very good, resulting in the efficient identification and production of many specific insect pheromones. Most of the pheromones have been developed to the stage of demonstrating the capability to monitor insects or to modify their behaviour in the field in a way that could lead to control. In many cases, experimental design has been determined by practical considerations - such as the availability of field sites, funding and collaborators - rather than on the basis of ideal scientific judgement.
  • The institutional capability of cooperating institutions in each country in which major projects have been undertaken has been raised and NRI staff have made a good and lasting impression on their collaborators.
  • Outputs of pheromone research include both pest monitoring and pest control systems. Pheromones and trapping techniques for practical monitoring have been developed in 18 locations. Control using pheromones has also been practically demonstrated with substantial economic returns and environmental benefits for pink bollworm on cotton in Egypt, and, on a smaller scale, for several other pests in other countries.
  • The components of pest monitoring systems have been well designed, but the actual use of the data to improve pest control practices has often fallen short of the potential.
  • The design of pest control systems has been more difficult, partly because pheromones generally need to be used over fairly large areas (often tens or hundreds of hectares) to be effective. The transition from an individual insecticide based control system to an area-wide system involving pheromones is a radical change in crop protection.
  • In some cases, pheromone-based systems have evolved through a series of empirical trials despite a lack either of a long-term funding commitment or of a clearly perceived market. Most effort has been technically based. Some major objectives (particularly related to the social and institutional output) have not been well addressed. Consideration of the factors influencing the implementation of the technologies has been lacking, sometimes resulting in a failure to stop unpromising research at an early stage.
  • Criteria by which potential pheromone candidates should be judged can be defined. The most significant target crops for pest control by pheromones are crops of high national or private value on which large amounts of pesticides are used. Changing pest control practices in such situations is difficult unless there is widespread dissatisfaction with current control methods, particularly pesticides, and confidence in the expected technical performance of pheromones. while some further understanding of social and institutional factors affecting adoption and implementation of pheromone technologies has been achieved, socio-economic and scientific inputs have not been effectively integrated.
  • Even where research has not lead to immediate uptake, technical knowledge about individual pheromones increases the potential for environmentally acceptable integrated pest management Systems.
  • The major impact of pheromones used for either control or monitoring is a reduction in pesticide use. The lack of any environmental baseline data prevents any definitive statement on the overall health impacts but it is clear that significant health problems exist with the use of insecticides in cotton. The substitution of pheromones for large quantities of insecticides is undoubtedly advantageous. Cost savings are a less important benefit. The importance of environment/health impacts - and even of pest damage and control - has not been reflected in project monitoring or baseline studies.
  • A major threat to the sustainability of the pheromone-based control system in Egypt is the liberalisation of the cotton sector. The end to the centralised control of cotton poses a significant risk that pheromone-based control will collapse.

Lessons

  • When favourable ecological and institutional conditions for pheromone use exist, as for cotton in Egypt, the economic and environmental benefits from pheromone control can be very much greater than the costs. when these conditions do not exist, as for cotton in Pakistan, no implementation will occur, despite extensive technical inputs.
  • The potential importance of positive environmental/health impacts needs to be reflected in monitoring and evaluation systems so that the broad benefits of pheromone use can be demonstrated and can offset, in part, any perceived risks associated with its adoption. Baseline data on the environmental effects of insecticides should be incorporated at an early stage into all projects in which it is expected that pheromones will reduce insecticide use.
  • Environmental benefits, rather than economic savings, are likely to be the driving force in pheromone adoption. Strong environmental policies rely on the availability of practical, effective and environmentally-acceptable technologies to meet policy objectives. Awareness of pheromones as environmentally desirable components of IPM systems increases the acceptability and practicality of such policies.
  • Changing pest control practices for significant target crops may be difficult. Pheromone control is a novel technology that may initially, at least, be perceived to increase risks to crop security while reducing environmental risks. Such a technology will require special support at policy level in order to achieve acceptance and commercial adoption.
  • Changing from an individual insecticide based control system to an area wide system involving pheromones is a radical change. To ensure effective and efficient development, an early commitment to long-term implementation based on a multi-stage plan combining chemical and ecological research, clearly assessed stakeholder demand and appropriate institutional conditions for implementation is essential. In cases where circumstances are not likely to allow implementation to be successful, work should be stopped at an early stage.
  • To implement pheromone-based control systems substantial resources must be employed to identify and enable the social and institutional conditions appropriate to pheromone use, as well as to develop the specific pheromones, dispensers and formulations. Technical research must respond to socio-economic findings related to problem identification and mechanisms for adoption and implementation. In the case of pest monitoring the way in which monitoring information will be used must be incorporated into the design of monitoring programmes.
  • To achieve acceptable control pheromones usually need to be used over areas larger than individual farms. This poses problems in experimental design which can impede conclusive experimental results, make it difficult to establish confidence in the technical success of pheromones and can delay adoption of the technology. The complexity and cost of organising large blocks must be included in the technical design.

Further Information


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