Pheronym’s first product, still in prototype, improves the efficacy of beneficial nematodes up to 78% and is “bee-friendly.” The company’s second product protects young and vulnerable plants from crop-destroying plant-parasitic nematodes. The company’s approach to pest control helps farmers grow more food in a more sustainable way, explains CEO/CSO Dr. Fatma Kaplan.
Interview: For years, pesticides were applied to the ground from above. What sparked the idea to take the battle underground and employ pheromones?
Underground pests are not as readily visible as the ones above ground. They are out of sight, out of mind. But farmers know about them because they reduce the yield. I am aware of them because I grew up on a family farm and have a degree in agriculture. I am also very familiar with the benefits of pest control.
I got the idea in 2005 when I accepted a postdoctoral position to identify the model nematode’s (Caenorhabditis elegans) sex pheromone and discovered that nematode pheromones were water-soluble. I knew how these discoveries could revolutionize agricultural pest control for nematodes. Pheromones have been used to control insects successfully for decades. Why not for nematodes? Since nematode pheromones were water-soluble, we could apply them with irrigation water to the soil where plant-parasitic nematodes attack plant roots. Keep Reading