Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field

Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field

A new technique to fight crop insect pests may affect different insect populations differently, researchers report. They analyzed RNA interference (RNAi), a method that uses genetic material to ‘silence’ specific genes — in this case genes known to give insect pests an advantage. The researchers found that western corn rootworm beetles that are already resistant to crop rotation are in some cases also less vulnerable to RNAi.

via Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily:

A new technique to fight crop insect pests may affect different insect populations differently, researchers report. They analyzed RNA interference (RNAi), a method that uses genetic material to “silence” specific genes — in this case genes known to give insect pests an advantage. The researchers found that western corn rootworm beetles that are already resistant to crop rotation are in some cases also less vulnerable to RNAi.The study is reported in the journal Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology.”Our results indicate that the effectiveness of RNAi treatments could potentially vary among field populations depending on their genetic and physiological backgrounds,” the researchers wrote.The western corn rootworm will likely be one of the first crop pests to be targeted with RNAi technology, said Manfredo Seufferheld, a former University of Illinois crop sciences professor who led the study with crop sciences graduate student Chia-Ching Chu, entomology research associate Weilin Sun, Illinois Natural History Survey insect behaviorist Joseph Spencer and U. of I. entomology professor Barry Pittendrigh.Controlling the western corn rootworm costs growers more than $1 billion a year in the U.S. Current methods for keeping the bug in check — crop rotation and genetically modified corn — face challenges from populations of resistant western corn rootworms at various locations across the Corn Belt, Spencer said.Seufferheld and his colleagues recently discovered an important factor that helps rootworms overcome crop rotation, the practice of alternately planting soybeans and corn in the same field year to year. They found that microbes in the guts of rotation-resistant rootworms help those beetles that stray into soybean fields survive on soybean leaves for a few days — just long enough for the females to lay their eggs in soil that will be planted in corn the following year.Rather than studying a laboratory population of insects, in the new analysis the team tested RNAi on rootworm beetles collected from fields in three locations in the Midwest — two in Illinois with established rotation-resistant populations and the third from an area in Missouri with no evidence of rotation resistance.”After generations in the laboratory, insects gradually lose their natural diversity,” Seufferheld said. This makes it easier to control them, and may not accurately reflect actual insect responses in the field, he said. Seufferheld now works for Monsanto and is based in Buenos Aires, where he is in charge of insect resistance management.The team targeted two genes that are regulated differently in rotation-resistant and non-resistant rootworms. The first, DvRs5, codes for an enzyme that helps the rootworms digest plant proteins. …

For more info: Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Success of new bug-fighting approach may vary from field to field

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