Sexual confusion can help make wine?


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been compulsory in the EU since 2014 and will be critical to achievement of Farm to Fork & Biodiversity Strategy objectives. Mating disruption or in French ‘la confusion sexuelle’ [1] is one such approach. It has been successfully used for decades to control insect pests in perennial crops like vines, apples and peaches [2] [3]. Farmers release synthetic pheromones which overpower pheromones produced by female moths to attract males. The synthetic pheromones are released in such quantities that male moths can’t find females, preventing them from mating and giving rise to the next generation of pests [4].

However, like so many good inventions, mating disruption cannot solve all types of pest problems, or work in all situations. It works best when farmers grow the same crops in close proximity and work together to confuse male moths over large areas, often at community level. This would not for example be possible with many important pests, such as aphids, which can infest many different types of crops but do not rely on pheromones for reproduction.

[1] BASF France: La confusion sexuelle, une autre façon de protéger la vigne contre les vers de la grappe
[2] Sex Pheromones of Two Leafminer Species, Antispila oinophylla and Holocacista rivillei (Lepidoptera: Heliozelidae) Infesting Grapevine in Italy, 2018
[3] Evaluation of the Efficacy of Sex Pheromones and Food Attractants Used to Monitor and Control Synanthedon Myopaeformis (Lepidoptera: Sesiidae),
[4] Mating disruption has been successfully employed in Europe, including Germany and in Switzerland where it is used to protect 65% and 60% of the vineyards, respectively. In 2019 mating disruptions was used to protect more than 100,000 hectares of vine France (12% of the total) including nearly 20,000 hectares in Champagne. In the Trentino region of norther Italy, pheromone mating disruption has been used so successfully that it has largely replaced use of insecticides.