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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » Horticultural Crops Disease and Pest Management Research Unit » Research » Research Project #439374

Research Project: Sustainable Management of Arthropod Pests in Horticultural Crops

Location: Horticultural Crops Disease and Pest Management Research Unit

Project Number: 2072-22000-044-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 23, 2020
End Date: Oct 22, 2025

This Project Plan focuses on invertebrate pests important to small fruit and nursery growers and are also highly visible to the public. While an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is desired, growers still follow calendar-based insecticide sprays. To promote sustainable management, our objectives include biological control agents currently present in the field, convenient strategies for growers to apply such as erythritol and silicon, and longer-term molecular approaches for developing species-specific biologically-based insecticides. Objective 1: Develop and improve molecular-based management tools for control of arthropod pests in the Pacific Northwest that affect horticultural crops, especially spotted-wing drosophila (SWD), slugs, and thrips, with an emphasis on new technologies. • Sub-objective 1A: Develop delivery methods for biological agents such as RNAi to SWD: 1) Identify and characterize RNase in SWD; 2) Formulate dsRNA with lipid nanoparticle materials. • Sub-objective 1B: Identify bioactive peptides using GPCR-based screening in SWD. • Sub-objective 1C: Identify bioactive peptides to control slugs. • Sub-objective 1D: Identify molecular markers and neuropeptides in western flower thrips (WFT). Objective 2: Develop and integrate management strategies for arthropod pests in the Pacific Northwest that affect horticultural crops such as blueberries, raspberries, and wine grapes, especially spotted-wing drosophila (SWD) and brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), with an emphasis on biological control. • Sub-objective 2A: Explore erythritol for managing SWD. • Sub-objective 2B: Develop augmentative biological control of SWD in protected environments. • Sub-objective 2C: Improve conservation biological control of BMSB. • Sub-objective 2D: Test silicon supplementation for azalea lace bug (AzLB) control.

Obj. 1A hypothesizes that protecting dsRNA in the midgut will enhance RNAi impact on SWD. We will first identify RNAse in SWD using a BLAST search and DNA sequencing. Then we will characterize dsRNA enzymatic acitivty in the midgut, and formulate dsRNA with nanoparticle materials. Formulated dsRNAs will be injected into or fed to SWD flies, and the phenotypic impacts will be monitored. If the target RNAi does not work, we will continue to search for other RNAi targets expressed in the midgut membrane. Obj. 1B hypothesizes that receptor interference using small peptides will negatively affect SWD, and Obj. 1C tests slugs. First, G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) will be identified and expressed, and then screened using a biopanning technique where where a peptide or protein is fused with the coat protein of a bacteriophage. After screening, a small amount of peptides (< 5 mg) will be synthesized and injected into SWD adults or slugs and monitored for survival. If efficacy is low, the small peptides will be modified with hydrophobic side chains such as cysteine bonds or formulated with lipid nanoparticles. Obj. 1D hypothesizes that internal transcribed spacer genes can be used as a molecular marker for western flower thrips identification. Digested patterns will be compared to other thrips species. If these genes are not suitable, we will try cytochrome oxidase genes as an identifying marker. Obj. 2A hypothesizes that the non-nutritive sweetener sucralose is phagostimulative, and field applications of erythritol will lower SWD infestation in the field and have minimal non-target effects. Flies will be fed various solutions to determine phagostimulation. Blueberry plants will be sprayed with erythritol formulations, and resulting pest infestation and visits by non-target insects will be monitored. Natural infestation rates may vary, and cage studies may be done to monitor impact. Obj. 2B hypothesizes that releases of the parasitoid Pachycrepoideus vindemiae will lower SWD infestation. Augmentative releases will be made in small fruits grown in hoop houses, and resulting parasitism in sentinel traps, and infestation among fruit monitored. Natural infestation may get too high causing the grower to spray, in which case, studies may be repeated in smaller scale experimental plots. Obj. 2C hypothesizes that the imported parasitoid of BMSB, Trissolcus japonicus, will benefit from floral supplementation. Wasps will be fed various floral species, with their longevity and nutrient storage measured. The most beneficial flowers will be seeded in the field to measure impact on parasitism. Obj. 2D hypothesizes that supplementing rhododendron plants with silicon will result in uptake in plant tissues, and make plants less susceptible to azalea lace bug herbivory. Plants will be supplemented as recommended, and lace bug feeding and reproduction will be monitored on plants. Plants may not take up silicon in the tissues, but supplementation may still deter herbivory. If this occurs, we will examine the impact of silicon on settling preference of lace bugs on treated versus untreated surfaces.