My PhD aims to investigate novel methods of controlling the glasshouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) on tomatoes in greenhouses. Glasshouse whiteflies are one of the most important U.K. pests of glasshouse-grown crops, and feed on a wide range of plants by extracting sap from the plant phloem. Plants produce volatile organic compounds which have been shown to transmit messages within and between plants and other organisms.
I am investigating whether plant volatiles from whitefly-infested plants can activate the defences of other tomato plants to better defend those plants from attack. Defence activation is assessed by measuring how well whiteflies settle and lay eggs on these volatile-exposed plants. Molecular techniques will later be used to verify defence activation and to identify which genes in the plant are activated by volatile exposure. It is hoped that this research will help develop a volatile-based control method of glasshouse whiteflies that is more environmentally sustainable than currently used methods.