Workplan and budget


Many studies have proven that both plants and pests communicate their physio-chemical status to their surroundings by emitting VOCs. VOC emission analysis can be done by various methods. PurPest will improve VOC detection capabilities by a combination of optimizing existing technologies and developing new sensors. The first phase of PurPest is to perform controlled experiments in isolated laboratories where the host plants are subjected to pest attacks. Custom built VOC collectors will be used to sample the air surrounding the plant to collect the emitted VOCs. The collected air samples will be thoroughly analysed for the VOC content and a comprehensive database will be compiled and shared in a publicly open data repository. In phase 2 we will develop the sensor components for detection of the identified VOCs. These will be integrated in phase 3 and tested with gradually more complex mixtures of the identified VOCs. During this phase a selection of the best sensor components will be made. These sensor components will be integrated into the six sensor system prototypes. In Phase 4 the six SSPs will be tested in import- and field conditions for verification of pest detection. The results will be verified by current standard methods (ground truthing), such as visual assessment and molecular tests. Feedback will be given for possible improvements.

sensor system prototype (SSP) to detect the VOCs and timely identify target pests

4-year project, starting 1 January 2023


The PurPest project has selected to study 5 major pests: Phytophthora ramorum (PhR), the fall armyworm (FAW), the cotton bollworm (CBW), the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) and the pinewood nematode (PWN). The underlying rationale for the choice of these pests is that these are serious pests that cover a range of different pest groups (pathogens, insects and nematodes) that have either a large host range, been classified as quarantine or priority pest and that have a large damage potential as described in the Pest Risk Assessment of the EPPO global database. Broad applicability of the PurPest concept is especially important for the national import control agencies (end users) that have to detect multiple pests is several plant species that are crossing the border. This is also relevant for farmers (end users) that need to detect a certain target pest on their crop species. This way, the SSP developed in PurPest will be applicable for all major plant.

Phytophthora ramorum. Photo: Erling Fløistad


The oomycete genus Phytophthora currently comprises mostly soil - or airborne primary plant pathogens with partly extremely wide host ranges, in particular PhR and P. cinnamomi. In European nurseries and plantations more than 60 Phytophthora species have been confirmed, almost all of them considered as exotic invasive pathogens. Preliminary results from recent studies with a limited number of Phytophthora and plant species, respectively, indicate that both Phytophthora species and plants attacked by them may have species-specific VOC patterns which could be used for early detection of these pathogens. NIBIO and MENDELU will capture VOCs from pure cultures and from host plants infected with single PhR isolates in Norway and the Czech Republic, respectively. In addition, plants will be co-inoculated with different pests at the same time to study the effect of multiple pests on the VOCs. JKI will support MENDELU with VOC collection. SINTEF will carry out the VOC analysis at NIBIO's facilities using a portable GC-MS, while MENDELU will use their GC-MS instruments.

Fall Armyworm (FAW)

The fall armyworm (FAW) is a lepidopteran insect and a major pest of maize (corn) originating from the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. FAW also infests more than 80 other food crops such as rice, sugarcane, sorghum, legumes, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, cotton, sunflowers, bananas, garlic, ginger, sweet potatoes, peppers, cruciferous plants, melon family and vegetables. FAW has recently become a devastating pest in Africa and Asia. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) considers FAW one of the most important threats to food security in these regions. FAW is predicted to migrate further and in 2018 the European Union decided to give top priority to avoiding the invasion of FAW into Europe. UNINE will do experiments on the FAW in Switzerland, supplemented with field work in Mexico and Kenya, and will do their own VOC analysis to determine the compounds that should be targeted for sensors development.

Spodoptera frugiperda. (Butterfly photo: Erling Fløistad)

Helicoverpa armigera. (Butterfly photo: Vladimir Kononenko, Naturhistorisk museum/UiO)

Cotton Bollworm (CBW)

The cotton bollworm (CBW) is one of the most serious insect pests worldwide and considered a quarantine pest in Norway. This lepidopteran species causes huge economic losses due to its polyphagy, extreme mobility and high reproductive potential. In addition to feeding on more than 180 plant hosts from more than 45 families, including vital global food and fibre crops, CBW has the ability of developing resistance against pesticides. NIBIO will carry out experiments on CBW in Norway with the assistance of NTNU. SINTEF will carry out the VOC analysis at NIBIO's facilities.

Brown Marmorated Stink bug (BMSB)

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invasive and highly polyphagous invasive insect, which has more than 300 reported hosts, including important fruit and horticultural crops. Native to Asia, it is an emerging pest of global concern. It has spread to every Northern Hemisphere continent, most recently to Europe. In the last few years in Italy, it has caused serious economic losses to pears, peaches, kiwi, apples, hazelnuts, and several other crops, with damage exceeding 50% of the production in several occasions. UNIPD will carry out experiments on BMS in Italy.

Bursaphelenchus xylophilus. (Photo: David Pires)

Pinewood Nematode (PWN)

The pinewood nematode (PWN) has ravaged Asian pine forests for over a century and remains unstopped. In the last two decades after its arrival to the EU, where it is now classified a priority pest, PWN containment and mitigation has mobilized extensive investment. These efforts were, to date, inefficient, partly due to the outdated detection and monitoring techniques available. Pest specific VOC based systems have the potential to revolutionize current methodologies. To implement PurPest in Portugal, INIAV will isolate VOCs that characterize PWN-infected live pines and woody packaging material, UNIEV will profile their chemical compositions, and CNP and DGAV will support testing the prototype sensors under relevant conditions/expertise.



Total cost: € 6 472 232,50
EU contribution: € 6 472 231,75