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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research » Research » Research Project #439207

Research Project: Improved Biologically-Based Methods for Management of Native and Invasive Crop Insect Pests

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Project Number: 6036-22000-034-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2020
End Date: Sep 30, 2025

Objective 1: Develop genetically modified (GM) strains by transposon and CRISPR/Cas-mediated transgenesis for improved SIT in fruit fly pests, and new DNA delivery systems to apply this technology to a wider range of insect, including emerging pest species (e.g., caribfly, mexfly, medfly, spotted-winged drosophila). Objective 2: Develop strains of moths transinfected with Wolbachia that produce males with strong cytoplasmic incompatibility for use in the Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) to reduce pest populations of fall armyworm and corn earworm. Objective 3: Develop CRISPR gene editing in pest moths (e.g., Indian meal moth, fall armyworm, gypsy moth) that target genes critical for acquired biopesticide resistance using both whole insects and cultured insect cells. Objective 4: Develop improved surveillance and detection methods for hidden and invasive pests (e.g., red palm and citrus root weevil, Asian long-horned beetle, Asian citrus psyllid, and stored product insect pests) that incorporate automated collection, processing, and analysis of insect acoustic signals and behavioral activity. Objective 5: Develop improved surveillance of invasive and outbreak insect pests (e.g., corn silk flies and kudzu bug) using visual-cue traps, and improve strategies for detection and prediction of such dispersing pests by understanding the role of visual and other stimuli affecting specific behaviors. Objective 6: Improve area-wide landscape management tactics by developing conservation biological control strategies to mitigate pest populations and attract or support natural enemies (e.g., against fall armyworm). Objective 7: Combine genetic methods with air-transport and climate modeling to describe and predict the distribution and behavior of agricultural pests to facilitate the mitigation of migratory source populations and to identify locations at high risk for infestations by invasive species such as fall armyworm, corn silk fly, soybean looper, Old World bollworm, and corn earworm.

Research conducted by the Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology has historically been focused on the development of novel technologies that improve the cost-efficiency of traditional pest control strategies as well as provide environmentally benign alternatives to the use of chemical pesticides. The goals are to improve crop productivity while reducing the environmental impact and costs of pest management. The proposed research integrates different levels of biology that range from the genetic modification of pest insects to generate novel and improved variations of Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) strategies, the manipulation of pest endosymbionts to develop Insect Incompatibility Technique (IIT) strategies, the optimization of acoustic, olfactory, and visual cues to improve pest surveillance and disrupt pest behavior, the application of climate and air transport models to project pest distribution and migration patterns, and the development of landscape strategies for sustainable mitigation of pest populations. This multidisciplinary structure encourages innovation and facilitates synergism between projects. Anticipated accomplishments will initially apply to the control of high priority invasive fruit flies, beetles, psyllids, moths, and corn silk flies through new biologically based methods for pest control, improved capability to monitor pests, and better projections of pest movements to more effectively target the time and place of treatments. The impact will be higher productivity at lower cost for domestic agriculture and new and improved tools to detect and control emerging native and invasive pests.