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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics


Location: Biological Control of Insects Research

2012 Annual Report

4. Accomplishments
1. Selecting highly fecund lines of beneficial insects. The concept of biological control of insects is a potentially powerful alternative to classical insecticides. A major challenge is, however, the high cost of mass-producing beneficial insects restricts global use of these agents. ARS scientists at Columbia, Missouri, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, are working to reduce mass-production costs by selecting lines of predatory insects with increased egg-laying capacity. These selection programs depend on substantial genetic variability among individuals within the species of predatory insects. The researchers confirmed high genetic variability between populations from different geographic locations, providing the foundation for future work to breed a strain of spined soldier bugs with high reproductive capacity. Ultimately, this research will benefit growers who use biological control agents to reduce insect pest damage to their crops and consumers seeking food having reduced pesticide levels.

2. Improved baculovirus delivery for biocontrol. Lignin is a readily available, inexpensive, and renewable resource that could be used as an alternative to costly UV-protectants for naturally occurring baculoviruses selected for faster kill of crop-damaging caterpillars. ARS researchers at Columbia, Missouri and Peoria, Illinois explored lignin as an encapsulating agent that protects the baculoviruses from exposure to destructive ultraviolet (UV) light. In greenhouse and field experiments with cabbage, the researchers used a spray-dried lignin formulation to encapsulate a highly effective natural baculovirus and compare its persistence, rate of kill and replication to the wild-type strain. While the wild-type baculovirus proved more adept at replicating inside the caterpillars than the natural baculovirus, the caterpillars infected by the natural baculovirus died a day sooner than those infected by the wild-type strain. The lignin-encapsulated natural baculovirus killed the pests as quickly as lignin-free isolates, and lasted longer than lignin-free ones when exposed to UV radiation (27 versus 8 hours). This additional evidence of the formulation’s commercial potential will benefit growers by improving pest insect control and consumers who prefer organic and insecticide-free foods.

Review Publications
Breitenbach, J.E., Shelby, K., Popham, H.J. 2011. Baculovirus induced transcripts in hemocytes from Heliothis virescens. Viruses. 3(11):2047-2064.

Grasela, J.J., McIntosh, A.H., Ringbauer Jr, J.A., Goodman, C.L., Carpenter, J.E., Popham, H.J. 2012. Development of cell lines from the cactophagous insect: Cactoblastis cactorum (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) and their susceptibility to three baculoviruses. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Animals. 48:293-300.

Kneeland, K., Coudron, T.A., Lindroth, E., Stanley, D.W., Foster, J.E. 2012. Genetic variation in field and laboratory populations of the spined soldier bug Podisus maculiventris. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata. 143:120-126.

Coudron, T.A., Mitchell, L.C., Sun, R., Robertson, J.D., Pham, N.V., Popham, H.J. 2012. Dietary composition affect levels of trace elements in the predator Podisus maculiventris (Say) (Heteroptera: Pentatomidae). Biological Control. 61:141-146.

Greenstone, M.H., Weber, D.C., Hu, J.S., Coudron, T.A., Payton, M.E. 2012. Removing external DNA contamination from arthropod predators destined for molecular gut-content analysis. Molecular Ecology Resources. 12(3):464-469.

Popham, H.J., Sun, R., Shelby, K., Robertson, D. 2012. Changes in trace metals in hemolymph of baculovirus-infected noctuid larvae. Biological Trace Element Research. 146:325-334.

Behle, R.W., Popham, H.J. 2012. Laboratory and field evaluations for efficacy of a fast-killing baculovirus isolate from Spodoptera frugiperda. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 109:194-200.

Harrison, R.L., Popham, H.J., Breitenbach, J.E., Rowley, D.L. 2012. Genetic variation and virulence of Autographa californica multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus and Trichoplusia ni single nucleopolyhedrovirus isolates. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. 110(1):33-47.

Chang, C.L., Coudron, T.A., Goodman, C.L., Stanley, D.W. 2012. Larval dietary wheat germ oil influences age-specific protein expression in adults of the oriental fruit fly. Journal of Insect Physiology. 58:690-698.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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