Dr Charles Whitfield
Overall my research interests lie within in the broad area of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). I am interested in researching and developing crop protection methods and tools that allow farmers to minimise environmental damage, are cost effective, whilst improving crop yields. Much of my research has been in how we can utilise the compounds that plants and insects naturally produce to control insect behaviour in order to protect our crops. As many insect species rely on volatile compounds (odours) to sense the world around them, including their hosts, we can use these cues to manipulate insect behaviour in order to protect our crops.
I have worked extensively in micro-propagation for the production of clean (disease free) planting material. In some areas of the world farmers only have access to planting material that already contains viruses which can lead to 100% yield losses. I have worked in two projects, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the aim of identifying virus resistant varieties of cassava (Manihot esculenta), ensuring stocks of these varieties do not contain the viruses, and then multiplying these plants to provide African seed produces and farmers with clean starting material.
I am also interested in spray application and detection. Farmers are under increasing pressure to reduce pesticide use whilst still maintaining adequate control of crop pests. This may be achieved by giving farmers tools to detect the spray deposits on their crops. Although the ability to detect spray deposits in the laboratory is relatively straight forward, translating these techniques to the field requires an alternative approach, which is what I am currently researching.
The work and research I have carried out on various methods of crop protection has taken me to many interesting places, including the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, visits to Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, field sites in Argentina and the UK.
- George, D.R., Collier, R., Whitfield, C., Port, G. (2011). Could movement of neonates from non-host plants affect the potential of polyculture to reduce crop colonisation by pest insects? Crop Protection 30 (8). 1103-1105.