Tomatoes, hemp, and other plants create trichomes, micron to millimeter sized adhesive spheres, on to their leaves. These spheres defend the plant from small insect pests such as thrips. These tiny insects are extremely hazardous to commercial farming and cause viral injections to spread rapidly within greenhouses. As a result, large amounts of toxic insecticides are used to combat the spread of these herbivore pests.
In this project, you will work within a larger interdisciplinary team of plant ecology, phytochemical, and soft matter experts to design, fabricate, and test trichome mimics. Specifically:
- Identify of possible sustainable materials (such as linseed oil) which can compose the trichome mimic spheres that meet the multiple design requirements: adhesive, able to solubilize volatile organic compounds and in addition inexpensive, environmentally friendly, compatible with integrated pest management (IPM) and non-toxic to humans.
- Test the effects of the spheres on different insect herbivore species with an initial focus on thrips with Leiden University.
- Investigate volatiles that are harmful to or repel insect herbivores with an initial focus on thrips and those that attract natural enemies of insect herbivores Incorporation of selected volatiles in different adhesive spheres and optimize their (slow)