PhD student, Claire Hoarau is investigating biopesticides that combat one of oilseed rape’s most prevalent pest – the Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle.
Whilst completing her undergraduate and Master’s degrees, Claire discovered a passion for Entomology - and decided to make the switch from her native France to Shropshire, and to Harper Adams to progress with her studies.
These studies are looking into a way to tackle a renowned pest which is both more effective, and more environmentally friendly, than current methods.
Claire said: “My project is concerned with the use of biopesticides to control cabbage stem flea beetle, a pest which is a big problem in oilseed rape industry because it is resistant to the only class of synthetic insecticides that farmers are now allowed to spray.
“The idea is to find an alternative method of protecting oilseed rape. A biopesticide would be ideal as it would be better for the environment.
The insecticides that farmers are allowed to spray on oilseed rape are detrimental to biodiversity as it does not target just the cabbage stem flea beetle.”
Claire is researching organisms and molecules to combat this industry-wide problem, including ones that are entomopathogenic, meaning organisms that infect the pest and paralyse or kill it from within.
“I am looking at these species in the controlled environment of the laboratory and in field experiments, but I’m also looking at different molecules that are both safe to use and will kill the pest by entering its body and interfering with its internal systems.
Claire, who is from France's southern Rhône Valley, added: “It’s nice because they have experience in implementing the biopesticides in real situations, because sometimes how I think it's going to work is not realistic and it’s nice to have this added knowledge base to call upon.”
Before Claire finishes her PhD in November, she is hoping to undertake one more field trial to consolidate the results she achieved previously and hopefully improve on them.
She added: “I had not heard of Harper Adams before I started searching for a PhD, but after being here for three years I can firmly say that It’s a really lovely university in a very nice and very peaceful area!”