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Advance promises to expand biological control of crop pests

Date:
February 13, 2013
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
A new discovery promises to allow expanded use of a mainstay biological pest control method, which avoids the health, environmental and pest-resistance concerns of traditional insecticides, scientists are reporting. This is an advance toward broadening applicability of the so-called sterile insect technique.

Diamondback moths damage crops, and a new genetic approach could control these and other pests without conventional pesticides.
Credit: Image courtesy of American Chemical Society

A new discovery promises to allow expanded use of a mainstay biological pest control method, which avoids the health, environmental and pest-resistance concerns of traditional insecticides, scientists are reporting. The advance toward broadening applicability of the so-called sterile insect technique (SIT) appears in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.

Luke Alphey and colleagues explain that the Lepidoptera, a large family of insects with a caterpillar stage, cause widespread damage worldwide to cotton; apples, pears and other fruits; and vegetable crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Farmers usually battle these pests with traditional insects, with little use of SIT, despite its many advantages. SIT involves mass release of radiation-sterilized insects, which mate but produce no offspring, thus reducing the population of pests. Alphey's team focused on eliminating major drawbacks that discourage wider use of SIT: They include difficulty in producing male-only sterile insects without the use of radiation, which reduces their ability to compete with wild males for mates.

The scientists describe development of a synthetic genetic system that produces vigorous adult males with lethal information encoded in their sex-determination genes. The males mate, and all the female offspring die, thus reducing the pest populations. They developed the "lethal genetic sexing system" in two pests, the pink bollworm, which damages cotton crops, and the diamondback moth, which attacks broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetable crops. The approach could be used on other pests, as well, they state.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Li Jin, Adam S. Walker, Guoliang Fu, Timothy Harvey-Samuel, Tarig Dafa’alla, Andrea Miles, Thea Marubbi, Deborah Granville, Nerys Humphrey-Jones, Sinead O’Connell, Neil I. Morrison, Luke Alphey. Engineered Female-Specific Lethality for Control of Pest Lepidoptera. ACS Synthetic Biology, 2013; 130108140209004 DOI: 10.1021/sb300123m

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Advance promises to expand biological control of crop pests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213114710.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2013, February 13). Advance promises to expand biological control of crop pests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213114710.htm
American Chemical Society. "Advance promises to expand biological control of crop pests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213114710.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

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