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John J Beck

Research Leader

John Beck is a research chemist with a B.Sc. (chemistry) from the University of California, Riverside and a Ph.D. (organic/natural products chemistry) from Colorado State University. Professional memberships include the American Chemical Society (ACS) division of agrochemicals (AGRO), the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Plant-Insect Ecosystems section, and the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE). Prior to joining the ARS as a career employee in 2006, Dr. Beck was an Associate Professor of Chemistry. While his formal training was in organic chemistry and the isolation, characterization, and bioassay of natural products from terrestrial sources, his research now focuses on plant-, insect-, and microbial-emitted volatiles and their role as semiochemicals. His research has included discovering host plant-based attractants for the California insect pest, navel orangeworm utilizing electrophysiological (electroantennographic) and behavioral responses to select compounds or blends. As part of the USDA-ARS mission and the goals of his laboratory, Dr. Beck maintains collaborative research with external industry stakeholders, academia, and state agriculture, including: the California Pistachio Research Board (CPRB); the Almond Board of California (ABC); UC Davis Department of Entomology (Vannette Lab), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and ICIPE. Professional service includes Associate Adjunct Professor of Environmental Toxicology (ETOX) at UC Davis and a member of the Editorial Boards for the Journal of Food and Agricultural Chemistry (JAFC) and Phytochemistry Letters (PCL). His work with microbe semiochemicals has been recently highlighted in a JAFC article chosen as an ACS Editor's Choice. John and two of his colleagues/collaborators, Rachel Vannette and Baldwyn Torto were recently Guest Editors for a Virtual Issue on Semiochemicals in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Publications and Patents:


Cheseto, X.; Kachigamba, D.L.; Ekesi, S.; Ndung'u, M.; Teal, P.E.A.; Beck, J.J.; Torto, B. Identification of the ubiquitous antioxidant tripeptide glutathione as a fruity fly semiochemical. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2017. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b03164.

Rering, C.C.; Beck, J.J.; Hall, G.W.; McCartney, M.; Vannette, R.L. Nectar-inhabiting microorganisms influence nectar volatile composition and attractiveness to a generalist pollinator. New Phytol. 2017. DOI: 10.1111/nph.14809.

Beck, J.J.; Torto, B.; Vannette, R.L. Eavesdropping on plant-insect-microbe chemical communications in agricultural ecology: a virtual issue on semiochemicals. J. Agric. Food Chem. 65: 5101-5103. 2017. [Link]

Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S. Volatile blends and the effects thereof on the navel orangeworm moth. U.S. Patent Application S/N 14/858,654. Patent No. 9,655,366. Issued 05/23/2017.

Beck, J.J.; Willett, S.W.; Mahoney, N.E.; Gee, W.S. Silo-stored pistachios at varying humidity levels produce distinct volatile biomarkers. J. Agric. Food Chem. 65: 551-556. 2017. [PDF Reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Vannette, R.L. Harnessing insect-microbe chemical communications to control insect pests of agricultural systems. J. Agric. Food Chem. 65: 23-28. 2017. ACS Editor's Choice. [Link]


Beck, J.J.; Willett, S.W.; Gee, W.S.; Mahoney, N.E.; Higbee, B.S. Differentiation of volatile profiles from stockpiled almonds at varying relative humidity levels using benchtop and portable GC-MS. J. Agric. Food Chem. 64: 9286-9292. 2016. [PDF Reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Mahoney, N.E. Detection of aflatoxins and aflatoxic aspergilli in natural fungal bouquets. U.S. Patent Application S/N 12/895,748. Patent No. US 9,512,461. Issued 12/06/2016.


Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S. Chapter 9, Plant- or fungal-produced conophthorin as an important component of host plant volatile-based attractants for agricultural lepidopteran insect pests. In Discovery and Synthesis of Crop Protection Products, ACS Symposium Series. Maienfisch, P.; Stevenson, T.M. (eds). American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C. Vol 1204, pp. 111-127. 2015. [Link]

Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S. Volatile blends and the effects thereof on the navel orangeworm moth. U.S. Provisional Applications S/N 61/420,163; S/N 61/560,212; U.S. Utility Patent Application S/N 13/312,981. Patent No. 9,220,261. Issued 12/29/2015.

Beck, J.J.; Porter, N.; Cook, D.; Gee, W.S.; Griffith, C.M.; Rands, A.D.; Truong, T.V.; Smith, L.; San Román, I. In-field volatile analysis employing a hand-held portable GC-MS: emission profiles differentiate damaged and undamaged yellow starthistle flower heads. Phytochem. Anal. 26: 395-403. 2015. [PDF reprint]

Oster, M.; Beck, J.J.; Furrow, R.E.; Yeung, K.; Field, C.B. In-field yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) volatile composition under elevated temperature and CO2 and implications for future control. Chemoecology. 25: 313-323. 2015. [PDF reprint]

Smith, L.; Beck, J.J. Duration of emission of volatile organic compounds from mechanically damaged plant leaves. J. Plant Physiol. 188: 19-28. 2015. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Merrill, G.B. Palumbo, J.D.; O'Keeffe, T.L. Biosynthesis of styrene and 7-methyl-1,3,5-cyclooctatriene. U.S. Patent Application S/N 12/265,264. Patent No. 9,057,080. Issued 06/16/2015.

San Román, I.; Bartolomé, L.; Gee, W.S.; Alonso, R.M.; Beck, J.J. Comparison of ex situ volatile emissions from intact and mechanically damaged walnuts. Food Res. Inter. 72: 198-207. 2015. [PDF reprint]


Beck, J.J.; Baig, N.; Cook, D.; Mahoney, N.E.; Marsico, T.D. Semiochemicals from ex situ abiotically stressed cactus tissue: a contributing role of fungal spores? J. Agric. Food Chem. 62: 12273-12276. 2014. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Light, D.M.; Gee, W.S. Electrophysiological responses of male and female Amyelois transitella antennae to pistachio and almond host plant volatiles. Entomol. Exp. Appl. 153: 173-210. 2014. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Mahoney, N.E.; Higbee, B.S.; Gee, W.S.; Baig, N.; Griffith, C.M. Chapter 14, Semiochemicals to monitor insect pests - future opportunities for an effective host plant volatile blend to attract navel orangeworm in pistachio orchards. In Biopesticides: State of the Art and Future Opportunities, ACS Symposium Series. Gross, A.D.; Seiber, J.N.; Coats, J.R.; Duke, S.O. (eds). American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C. Vol 1172, pp. 191-210. 2014. [Link]

Oster, M.; Smith, L.; Beck, J.J.; Howard, A.; Field, C.B. Orientation behavior of predaceous ground beetle species in response to volatile emissions identified from yellow starthistle damaged by an invasive slug. Arthropod-Plant Inte. 8: 429-437. 2014. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Mahoney, N.E.; Cook, D.; Gee, W.S.; Baig, N.; Higbee, B.S. Comparison of the volatile emission profiles of ground almond and pistachio mummies: part 1 - addressing a gap in knowledge of current attractants for navel orangeworm. Phytochem. Lett. 9: 102-106. 2014. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Smith, L.; Baig, N. An overview of plant volatile metabolomics, sample treatment and reporting considerations with emphasis on mechanical damage and biological control of weeds. Phytochem. Anal. 25: 331-341. 2014. [PDF reprint]

Hua, S.S.T.; Beck, J.J.; Sarreal, S.B.L.; Gee, W. The major volatile compound 2-phenylethanol from the biocontrol yeast, Pichia anomala, inhibits growth and expression of aflatoxin biosynthetic genes of Aspergillus flavus. Mycotoxin Res. 30: 71-78. 2014.

Beck, J.J.; Mahoney, N.E.; Cook, D.; Higbee, B.S.; Light, D.M.; Gee, W.S.; Baig, N. Comparison of the volatile emission profiles of ground almond and pistachio mummies: part 2 - critical changes in emission profiles as a result of increasing the water activity. Phytochem. Lett. 8: 220-225. 2014. [PDF reprint]

Mahoney, N.E.; Gee, W.S.; Higbee, B.S.; Beck, J.J. Ex situ volatile survey of ground almond and pistachio hulls for emission of spiroketals: analysis of hull fatty acid composition, water content, and water activity. Phytochem. Lett. 7: 225-230. 2014. [PDF reprint]


Koivunen, M.E.; Duke, S.O.; Coats, J.R.; Beck, J.J. Chapter 1, Pest Management with Natural Products. In Pest Management with Natural Products, ACS Symposium Series, vol. 1141. Beck, J.J.; Coats, J.R.; Duke, S.O.; Koivunen, M.E. (eds). American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., pp. 1-4. 2013. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S. Chapter 5, Volatile natural products for monitoring the California tree nut insect pest Amyelois transitella. In Pest Management with Natural Products, ACS Symposium Series, vol. 1141. Beck, J.J.; Coats, J.R.; Duke, S.O.; Koivunen, M.E. (eds). American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., pp. 59-72. [PDF reprint]

Smith, L.; Beck, J.J. Effect of mechanical damage on emission of volatile organic compounds from plant leaves and implications for evaluation of host plant specificity of prospective biological control agents of weeds. Biocontrol Sci. Techn. 23(8): 880-907. 2013. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J. Conophthorin from almond host plant and fungal spores and its ecological relation to navel orangeworm: a natural products chemist's perspective. J. Mex. Chem. Soc. 57(1): 69-72. 2013. [PDF reprint]

Pearse, I.S.; Gee, W.S.; Beck, J.J. Headspace volatiles from 52 oak species advertise induction, species identity, and evolution, but not defense. J. Chem. Ecol. 39(1): 90-100. 2013. [PDF reprint]


Beck, J.J.; Mahoney, N.E.; Cook, D.; Gee, W.S. Generation of the volatile spiroketals conophthorin and chalcogran by fungal spores on polyunsaturated fatty acids common to almonds and pistachios. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60(48):11869-11876. 2012. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S.; Light, D.M.; Gee, W.S.; Merrill, G.B.; Hayashi, J.M. Hull split and damaged almond volatiles attract male and female navel orangeworm. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60(33): 8090-8096. 2012. [PDF reprint]

Light, D.M.; Beck, J.J. Behavior of codling moth (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) neonate larvae on surfaces treated with microencapsulated pear ester. Environ. Entomol. 41(3): 603-611. 2012. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Light, D.M.; Gee, W.S. Electroantennographic bioassay as a screening tool for host plant volatiles. J. Vis. Exp. 63: e3931, DOI: 10.3791/3931. 2012. [PDF reprint]

Dragull, K.; Beck, J.J. Isolation by ion-exchange methods. In: Methods in Molecular Biology - Natural Products Isolation 3rd edition. Sarker, S. D.; Lutfun, N. (eds). The Humana Press Inc., New Jersey. Vol 864, pp 189-219. 2012. [abstract]

Beck, J.J. Addressing the complexity and diversity of agricultural plant volatiles: a call for the integration of laboratory- and field-based analyses. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60(5): 1153-1157. 2012. [PDF reprint]


Carruthers, R.I.; Franc, M.K.; Gee, W.S.; Cossé, A.A.; Grewell, B.J.; Beck, J.J. Volatile emissions from the flea beetle Altica litigata (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) associated with invasive Ludwigia hexapetala. Chemoecology. 21(4): 253-259. 2011. [PDF reprint]

Williams, M.; Warnock, B.; Betz, J.M.; Beck, J.J.; Gardner, D.R.; Lee, S.T.; Molyneux, R.J.; Colegate, S.M. High levels of pyrrolizidine-N-oxides detected in the endangered Cryptantha crassipes (Terlingua Creek Cat's-eye) using HPLC-ESIMS. Phytochem. Anal. 22(6): 532-540. 2011. [abstract]

Beck, J.J.; Mahoney, N.E.; Cook, D.; Gee, W.S. Volatile analysis of ground almonds contaminated with naturally occurring fungi. J. Agric. Food Chem. 59(11): 6180-6187. 2011. [PDF reprint].

Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S.; Gee, W.S.; Dragull, K. Ambient orchard volatiles from California almonds. Phytochem. Lett. 4(2): 199-202. 2011. [PDF reprint]

Roitman, J.N.; Merrill, G.B; Beck, J.J. Survey of ex situ fruit and leaf volatiles from several Pistacia cultivars grown in California. J. Sci. Food. Agric. 91(5): 934-942. 2011. [PDF reprint]

2010 - 2007

Light, D.M.; Beck, J.J. Characterization of microencapsulated pear ester (2E,4Z)-ethyl-2,4-decadienoate: a kairomonal spray adjuvant against neonate codling moth larvae. J. Agric. Food Chem. 58(13): 7838-7845. 2010. [PDF reprint]

Dragull, K.; Beck, J.J.; Merrill, G.B. Essential oil yield and composition of Pistacia vera 'Kerman' fruits, peduncles, and leaves grown in California. J. Sci. Food Agric. 90(4): 664-668. 2010. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J. Letter to the Editor: styrene-producing microbes in food stuff. J. Food Sci. 75(1): x. 2010. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Merrill, G.B.; Higbee, B.S.; Light, D.M.; Gee, W.S. In situ seasonal study of the volatile production of almonds (Prunus dulcis) var. 'Nonpareil' and relationship to navel orangeworm. J. Agric. Food Chem. 57(9): 3749-3753. 2009. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Merrill, G.B.; Palumbo, J.D.; O'Keeffe, T.L. Strain of Fusarium oxysporum isolated from almond hulls produces styrene and 7-methyl-1,3,5-cyclooctatriene as the principal volatile components. J. Agric. Food Chem. 56(23): 11392-11398. 2008. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Smith, L.; Merrill, G.B. In situ volatile collection, analysis, and comparison of three Centaurea species and their relation to biocontrol with herbivorous insects. J. Agric. Food Chem. 56(8): 2759-2764. 2008. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Higbee, B.S.; Merrill, G.B.; Roitman, J.N. Comparison of volatile emissions from undamaged and mechanically damaged almonds. J. Sci. Food Agric. 88(8): 1363-1368. 2008. [PDF reprint]

Chou, S.-C.; Everngam, M.C.; Beck, J.J. Allelochemical phenolic acids from Gypsophila paniculata. J. Und. Chem. Res. 7(2): 40-42. 2008. [PDF reprint]

Wilson, K.A.; Beck, J.J.; Complete proton and carbon assignment of triclosan via one- and two-dimensional NMR analysis. Chem. Educ. 12(5): 338-342. 2007. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Chou, S.-C. Structural diversity of phthalides from the Apiaceae. J. Nat. Prod. 70(5): 891-900. 2007. [PDF reprint]

Beck, J.J.; Kim, J.H.; Campbell, B.C.; Chou, S.-C. Fungicidal activities of dihydroferulic acid alkyl ester analogues. J. Nat. Prod. 70(5): 779-782. 2007. [PDF reprint]