Knowledge for a sustainable world


Professor David Hall has worked at the Natural Resources Institute and its predecessor organisations for 45 years. He was made Professor of Chemical Ecology in 1997. At the University of Greenwich he has worked as director of the Agricultural Research Centre, deputy head of the Pest Management Department and head of the Chemical Ecology Group.

Professor Hall is a natural products chemist with over 45 years' experience in the isolation, identification, synthesis, formulation and field application of insect semiochemicals and other natural products for monitoring and controlling pests and diseases of crops, livestock and humans. He has extensive short-term overseas experience in Asia, Africa and South America.

Professor Hall's research is directed at reducing the use of conventional, chemical insecticides through the development of more environmentally acceptable and sustainable approaches, particularly those based on natural products such as pheromones and other semiochemicals. His work has had major impacts on the development of bait technologies to control tsetse fly throughout Africa, and on the use of pheromones against pests of rice, cotton, coffee and cocoa in Africa and SE Asia. In Europe he has been particularly successful in developing new approaches to the management of beetle pests in pine forests and midge pests in a range of horticultural crops. This work has been carried out with an extensive network of collaborators in research institutes, universities and commercial companies throughout the world.

Professor Hall is author of over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He was awarded the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers' prize for research and development in 2004 and the University of Greenwich's prize for Research and Enterprise in 2007 and was part of the NRI team that was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2019.

Professor Hall is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and an active member of the local Kent Section Committee, for which he has served as Chairman and Treasurer.

Professor Hall's particular interest is the identification and synthesis of natural products involved in the interaction of organisms with each other and with their surroundings. Examples are pheromones of insects, which control many aspects of their behaviour such as mating, feeding and egg-laying and are amongst the most biologically-active compounds known. Other examples are the odours of plants, animals and humans which attract or repel insects and other plant chemicals which affect the behaviour of pests or diseases. Replicating these compounds synthetically requires use of a range of analytical techniques, in order to define their precise chemical structure, and a wide repertoire of synthesis strategies.

While Professor Hall's research group has particular expertise in chemical analysis and synthesis, one of its key strengths is the ability to interact with biologists in the laboratory and field, and with growers and commercial companies. In this way it can ensure the results of its research are taken forward into the field to help manage pests and diseases in an environmentally acceptable, sustainable manner.

Safe control of mirid pests on cocoa in West Africa. 2007–13. Cocoa Research UK. Total value: £300,000. Value to NRI £190,000.

Mirids are the main insect pests of cocoa in West Africa. In this project the pheromones of the two main species in Ghana were identified and their use for monitoring and control of the pests by mass trapping investigated. The work formed the basis of PhD studies by a member of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana.

New biofumigation-based approaches to sustainable control of soil-borne pathogens. 2011–14. TSB. Total value: £800,000. Value to NRI: £110,000.

Control of soil-borne pathogens such as Verticillium wilt has become a major problem in UK horticulture since the withdrawal of the broad-spectrum chemical fumigant methyl bromide. NRI work has shown that lavender foliage can kill the Verticillium spores and the chemicals responsible have been identified. Use of lavender waste and a microencapsulated formulation of the active chemicals for soil sterilisation is being investigated.

Development of improved methods for detection, control and eradication of pine wood nematode in support of EU Plant Health policy. 2010–14. EU FP7. Total value: EUR3m. Value to NRI: £160,000.

Pine wilt nematode is an invasive pest from Asia that threatens the pine forests of Europe. This project aims to assess the magnitude of this threat and develop methods to minimise it. The nematode is carried by beetles and the researchers' component involves development of attractants for monitoring and control of the beetles. Powerful attractants involving pheromones and pine volatiles have been developed for the known and potential vector species and their use in monitoring and mass trapping of the beetles is being investigated.

Semiochemical control of midge pests of horticultural crops. 2013–16. Defra/CRD. Total value: £160,000. Value to NRI: £55,000.

Plant feeding gall midges are important pests of agricultural and horticultural crops worldwide and pesticide use to control them is significant. This project aims to develop the first effective semio-chemical-based control method for a gall midge pest that will be suitable for use in commercial practice.

  • Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Associate editor, Journal of Chemical Ecology
  • Associate editor, Bulletin of Entomological Research
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