“Sniffer” identifies cotton pest

By Tom Lollis

Sniffer-Electronic SensorIn science fiction, electronic sensors can detects all forms of life. At Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, scientists are working to develop a real-world version of just such a sensor. The hand-held device may one day help farmers detect stink bug infestations in cotton, a pest that causes more than $50 million in U.S. crop losses annually.

The sensor, called the Cyranose 320, is currently used to sniff out drugs and explosives in airports. It routes air over a 32-sensor chip, where a chemical’s signature is imprinted.

The Clemson research team, led by agricultural engineer Ahmad Khalilian, is working to identify chemicals given off by a cotton plant when bolls have been damaged by stink bugs. They are also investigating whether the sensor can be programmed to detect the pest directly.

“We hope to develop a hand-held device that a farmer can take to the field and measure the amount of stink bug infestation so decisions on pesticide applications can be made,” Khalilian said.

Entomologist Sam Turnipseed said, “Over millions of years cotton has evolved to the point that it can make a chemical cry for help to predator insects when it is attacked by a pest such as the stink bug. A sniffer would make it possible to spray just the hot spots instead of the entire field.”
Support for this project is provided by Cotton Incorporated, the S.C. Cotton Board, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Southern Region IPM Committee of USDA.

For information: Ahmed Khalilian, 803-284-3343, ext. 230, akhlln@clemson.edu