The main objective of PurPest is to control serious plant pests during import and to manage them in the field by developing a unique concept enabling pest detection in a timely and non-invasive manner.

Summary of the project:

The EU requires rapid and effective actions based on innovative detection concepts targeting quarantine, priority, and other serious pests. Fair, healthy, and environment-friendly food systems are threatened by increasing pest invasions due to climate change and a growing demand for high-quality, pest-free food. The goal of PurPest is to develop, validate, and demonstrate an innovative sensor platform that can rapidly detect five different pests during import and in the field to stop their establishment and reduce pesticide inputs by at least 50%. The sensor concept is based on the detection of pest-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by host plants invaded by one or several pests. PurPest will determine the VOC signature of Phytophthora ramorum, the Fall armyworm, the Cotton bollworm, the Brown marmorated stinkbug, and the Pinewood nematode under different abiotic stress conditions. The VOC database will be exploited to optimize existing and develop new sensor concepts to detect pest-specific VOCs, starting from proof of concept (TRL3) to demonstration in field trials (TRL6). Non-invasive, reliable, and rapid pest sensing platforms will increase pest screening efficiency from currently 3% to 80% of plant imports. Preventing outbreaks of new pests and site-specific pesticide use by early detection are the cornerstones of sustainable and integrated pest management (IPM). PurPest will evaluate the socio-economic and ecological impact of 5 pests and how the new detection concept affects these impacts. Direct communication with stakeholders via the advisory board, workshops, and webinars is part of PurPest’s multi-actor approach to affirm the involvement of all interest groups along the value chain The PurPest project is a strong multidisciplinary consortium with expertise from 10 countries, 7 universities, 5 research institutes, 4 SMEs and 2 governmental agencies.