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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Charleston, South Carolina » Vegetable Research » Research » Research Project #445229

Research Project: Managing Whiteflies and Whitefly-transmitted Viruses in Vegetable Crops in the Southeastern U.S.

Location: Vegetable Research

Project Number: 6080-22000-030-016-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 29, 2023
End Date: Sep 29, 2028

The overall objective of this project is to improve the management of whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses in vegetable crops in Georgia and other southeastern states. The whitefly, Bemisia tabaci, causes global economic losses including an epidemic by this pest and whitefly-transmitted viruses that severely impact vegetable and other crop production in the southeastern United States. The rapid evolution of insecticide-resistance in whitefly populations makes it unsustainable to use chemical control. We will investigate whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses in vegetable cropping systems from the perspective of an ecology-based integrated pest-plant-virus management system.

Recent outbreaks of new whitefly populations and whitefly-transmitted viruses in the United States have caused serious crop losses and concerns to vegetable growers, especially in southern states. An ecology-based integrated pest-virus management strategy will be developed to control whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses by incorporating plant resistance, biorational chemicals, insecticide resistance management, biocontrol, cultural, microbiome manipulation, and molecular control and other biotechnology tools, and by better understanding the ecology of whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses in the vegetable cropping systems. The species Bemisia tabaci MEAM1 will be used in the experiments, but others in this species complex may be included if detected in vegetable field production in Georgia or South Carolina. Research will be conducted on characterization of whitefly species composition, population dynamics, biological control, whitefly and virus host range, insecticide efficacy, and insecticide resistance. In addition, genome-enabled and gene-editing technologies as novel approaches to control whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses will be exploited. Further, cultural tactics for whitefly and virus management will be explored in addition to testing vegetable germplasm for resistance to whiteflies and whitefly-transmitted viruses. Whitefly and natural enemy populations will be collected for resistance monitoring from natural and managed environments. Experiments will be conducted to understand virus interactions with host plants as well as the effects of the virus on vector fitness and biology. These approaches will help identify weak links in whitefly development and virus-host interactions that can be exploited for developing improved management strategies. A partnership including USDA-ARS, Fort Valley State University and the University of Georgia will work collaboratively to mitigate annual whitefly population explosions affecting vegetable crops. This partnership consists of scientists, faculty, and students, and includes biology, entomology, plant pathology (virology), horticulture, and agricultural science expertise. This research will develop science-based solutions for stakeholders to minimize yield losses while enhancing environmental safety and profitability. Outreach through printed, electronic and public extension activities will be done to disseminate newly developed management strategies and technologies that have been developed by researchers in this collaboration to benefit vegetable growers in Georgia and other southeastern states.