CATT: Sustainable treatment

Wageningen UR has developed a method for making plant products ‘pest-free’. The sustainable CATT treatment has been successfully used for many years to tackle quarantine insects on strawberry plants.

CATT (Controlled Atmosphere Temperature Treatment) was developed by two components at Wageningen UR: Food & Biobased Research and Applied Plant Research. The principle involved in CATT is that plants undergo a treatment for a certain period in a gas-tight cell. That treatment consists of a combination of increased temperature and specific air conditions, such as the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. Limiting conditions such as humidity and packaging may also be included in the recipe. In addition to the fact that CATT is suitable as a method for making plant materials pest-free, CATT is also used as a quarantine treatment for import and export.

How CATT works

The composition of the recipe determines how the treatment method works. Before CATT can be applied as standard, research into the insect and the plant material is required. By breeding insects in all stages, we study the sensitivity of an insect at a certain stage of the treatment. We also monitor how plants of different varieties, origin and quality respond to a CATT treatment. To do this, we grow plants after treatment or we determine the shelf life of the fruit after treatment.

At Food & Biobased Research, we have acquired a great deal of knowledge relating to the quality of fresh products from the moment of harvest to the time of consumption. We also know how technology can be implemented. For in-depth knowledge about insects and nematodes, Food & Biobased Research works with entomologists and nematologists from other institutes at Wageningen UR. This combination ensures that we can rapidly develop good solutions.

Alternative to methyl bromide

Methyl bromide is banned in Europe. Breeding and propagation companies mainly use CATT as an alternative to methyl bromide. CATT is a sustainable, non-chemical alternative that can be used without legal restrictions. Strawberry plant growers have used CATT for years to kill the highly destructive strawberry tarsonemid mite.

Since late 2012, a modified form of the CATT method has been effectively used to tackle two other undesired nematodes: the root lesion nematode Pratylenchus penetrans and the northern root-knot nematode Meloidogyne hapla. If the presence of these nematodes is discovered during an inspection, that particular batch must be destroyed. CATT can be used to tackle both the strawberry tarsonemid mite and the harmful nematodes, thus offering propagation companies significant added value.

Current research

Wageningen UR has proved the effectiveness of CATT against other pest-plant combinations in addition to strawberry tarsonemid mites. CATT seems to be successful in tackling insects like the Western flower thrips, whitefly, the tomato leaf mining moth and the tiger mosquito. There are also good prospects for dry bulb mites and the quarantine nematode chitwoodi, which is sometimes found in seed potatoes.

Contact us free of obligation to discuss how CATT could help you in your situation and the possibilities of joining current or planned research programmes.