Knowledge for a sustainable world


After working for The Centre for Overseas Pest Control – one of the Natural Resources Institute's parent organisations – at Porton Down from 1979, David Grzywacz joined the University of Greenwich in 1994 as senior scientist and insect pathologist. He became head of the insect pathology research group in 1993 and subsequently head of the sustainable agriculture group in 2003. He served as head of the Agriculture, Health & Environment Department in 2005–06. David is deputy programme leader for the MSc in sustainable environmental management and the MSc in agriculture for sustainable development.

His career highlights over the last five years have included the development of a new biological control for African armyworm (Grzywacz et al 2008) and the first ever publication on the role of Wolbachia in synergising virus infections in insects (Graham et al 2012). Foci have also included providing scientific advice to new companies setting up production of biological pesticides in Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania, as well as advising the governments of Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania (ongoing) on appropriate policies and regulations for registering novel biological pesticides.

David's collaborating academics include Professor Ken Wilson of Lancaster University, Professor Anthony Shelton of Cornell University, Associate Professor Derek Russell of Melbourne University and Professor Jenny Cory of Simon Fraser University.

David Grzywacz's main research interest is biological control of global and emergent insect pests using insect pathogens. This includes the development of pesticides based upon insect viruses as specific and safe alternatives to the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and the development of biologically based crop protection. A more recent focus is how agricultural research can be translated into greater real impact in developing countries.

The major impact of his research has been in the development of commercial biological pesticides based on insect viruses for the control of a number of global pests. This has focused on the control of several global insect crop pests – the pod borer (Helicoverpa armigera), the armyworm species (Sopdoptera exigua, S.litura, S.littoralis and S.exempta) and the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella). All of these are major global pests, each causing more than $1bn worth of damage per annum, which, in many cases, have become highly resistant to chemical pesticides.

David's work has involved identifying the specific viruses that can kill these pests, selecting and evaluating the best strains for control, developing efficient systems for producing these viruses and determining how best to use the viruses to control the pest. This has then been transferred to companies to enable them to produce and sell virus-based pesticides in place of toxic chemical insecticides. This had led to commercial production of these novel pesticides in India, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania.

  • Fellow, Royal Entomological Society
  • Member, Society of Invertebrate Pathologists
  • Reviewer for Biological Control, Journal of Tropical Insect Science, Journal of Pest Science, African Journal of Agricultural Research, Experimental Agriculture, Crop Protection, Pesticide Chemistry and Physiology, Entomological Research, and Journal of Insect Science.
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