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USDA grants to spur innovations to slash pesticide use

California biotech firm receives eight grants for pest-control innovations

ISCA Technologies Inc.

IMAGE

IMAGE: ISCA Technologies' SPLAT Bloom is being developed with a USDA grant. It uses pheromones to focus bees brought to orchards on blossoming fruit trees, increasing pollination rates. view more 

Credit: ISCA Technologies

A Riverside, Calif., biotech company will advance eight environmentally-friendly innovations to control damaging insect pests and improve crop yields thanks to grants it received this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

ISCA Technologies received six "Phase 1" grants from the department's Small Business Innovation Research Program to develop and test five new pest control products and one that improves fruit blossom pollination rates. ISCA also received two "Phase 2" grants to prepare for the commercial market products already shown to have worked in field trials.

The Phase 1 grants are highly competitive with only 14 percent of the grant applicants receiving funding. Phase 2 grants are awarded competitively only after the successful completion of a Phase 1 project.

The ISCA grants will support technologies that are economical, effective and ground-breaking.

For example, one innovation uses naturally occurring pheromones to induce honey bees to pollinate flowers preferentially in the area where the product is applied. This results in healthier bees, higher pollination rates, and higher crop production. Another puts yeast species to work to brew insect sex pheromones inexpensively, making various environmentally safe control strategies significantly more affordable to growers. And a third launches drones to deploy pheromones and other naturally occurring compounds that control pests by modifying their behavior.

Here are the two Phase 2 grants:

  • Protecting Southern Yellow Pine from Dendroctonus Frontalis with SPB Repel;

  • Semiochemical Management of The Cranberry Fruitworm for the Small Cranberry Grower;

Here are the six Phase 1 grants:

  • A Semiochemical Shield for Spruce and Douglas Fir Trees from Bark Beetle Attack;

  • Splat Bloom: Focused Bee Pollination in Safe Target Areas Details;

  • CLB Repel: A Safe, Organic Semiochemical Repellent for the Chicken Litter Beetle, Alphitobius Diaperinus;

  • UAV-Based (drone-based) Semiochemical Management for U.S. Agricultural Crops;

  • CBB (coffee berry borer) Repel: Safeguarding The Prosperity Of The Small Farm Hawaiian Coffee Industry;

    BYOP - Brew Your Own Pheromone: A Bio-Based Production Method For Insect Pheromones Using Yeast Cell Factories;

The USDA this year awarded a total of $24 million in this grant program for U.S. businesses with 500 or fewer employees, the department announced on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

ISCA Technologies develops, tests and commercializes safe, economical and environmentally-friendly integrated management solutions to crop-destroying and disease-spreading pests worldwide based the use of naturally occurring compounds that influence animal behavior.

ISCA strives to revolutionize pest control by developing methods that don't harm other creatures and drastically reduce or even completely replace pesticide applications.

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