Sustainable insect sex pheromone formulation applied by air protects Argentina’s wine industry



While wine may be the beverage of romance, Argentinian agricultural officials have found an ingenious way to protect the world’s fifth largest wine-producing nation from a highly damaging insect species by preventing the bugs from, well, making love.

The control strategy is called “mating disruption,” and it does not require a drop of insecticide. The Argentinians have used it effectively in the Mendoza Province just east of the Andes to control the highly damaging European grapevine moth, known by scientists as Lobesia botrana.

When the first grapevine moths of the season arrive in Mendoza’s sprawling vineyards, officials with the province’s Institute of Agricultural Health and Quality (ISCAMEN) summon aircraft and drones to efficiently apply a liquid, biodegradable, non-toxic pheromone formulation developed by ISCA, Inc., called SPLAT Lobesia FL, to tens of thousands of acres of vineyards and nearby environs where the moths may lurk.

What happens next is a tale of unrequited love. Millions of droplets of SPLAT Lobesia FL in the vineyards slowly emit a synthetic version of the same sex pheromone the female Lobesia moths release in nature to call the males for mating. When males follow the scent of the applied pheromone, they became hopelessly confused and fail to find the willing females. Most live out their lives without producing offspring. The next generation of hungry caterpillars never hatch — and the grapevines thrive.

Aerial applications of ISCA’s insect pheromone innovation protects vineyards in Argentina. Photos by Aerotec Argentina SA.

Since 2018, more than 200,000 acres of vineyards in Argentina have been treated with SPLAT Lobesia FL, making it one of the world’s largest mating disruption programs aerially applied to a crop. Population densities in treated areas dropped by 95%, as measured by sentinel monitoring traps.

“SPLAT Lobesia constitutes an alternative that has solved most of our problems,” said Guillermo Federico Azín, ISCAMEN’s Coordinator of Control and Eradication of Lobesia botrana. “That is why we recommend the use of SPLAT Lobesia for all the wine regions of the world.”

Mariel Vanin, ISCAMEN’s Technical Secretary, added that SPLAT Lobesia has been effective despite Mendoza’s extreme climate, with very low humidity and constant bright sunshine.

“We are happy that our product protects the wine industry while respecting the environment of the Mendoza Valley,” said ISCA CEO Agenor Mafra-Neto. “The grapevine moth is one of the world’s many major insect pests that we control with our innovative semiochemical technologies without harming non-target species, like bees and other beneficial insects.”

Manually applied mating disruption insect controls have been available for years, but application costs have greatly limited their use. This was because they rely on large plastic pheromone dispensers like racks, tubes, and ropes, that needed to be placed in the crop one by one — a slow, tedious, and labor-intensive process. In some places, these plastic devices have to be retrieved before the end of the season, doubling the manual effort.

ISCA’s development of flowable pheromone formulations that can be applied mechanically over large areas efficiently by airplanes, drones, tractors, and all-terrain vehicles, has opened up a new world of possibilities for sustainable agriculture. Now pheromone products can be used areawide, easily, as this program in Mendoza shows. It is an achievement worthy of a celebration with a glass of Argentinian wine.

(Click here for a Spanish version of this press release.)

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact ISCA USA Communications Director David Danelski at 011 (951) 850-0143 or

ISCA, Inc. is a green agtech company that provides the next generation of insect control products for world agriculture by harnessing the power of pheromones and other semiochemicals emitted in nature by plants and animals that manipulate the behavior of targeted insect species. ISCA’s innovations are environmentally sustainable and cost-effective solutions to many of the world’s major pests of both row and specialty crops. ISCA is headquartered in Riverside, Calif., USA, and has a subsidiary in Brazil and a manufacturing partnership in India.