Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Chemistry Research » Research » Research Project #433981

Research Project: Methodology Development: Identification of Biomarkers for Detection and Exclusion of Insect Pests in Agricultural Commodities

Location: Chemistry Research

Project Number: 6036-22430-001-005-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: May 1, 2019
End Date: Sep 30, 2022

Project objectives for the requested time period are: 1. Develop, optimize, and implement a pilot program to optimize headspace (HS) volatile collection and gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) parameters; and, 2. Identify volatile biomarkers of infested fruit or vegetables. This research project explores the development and use of biomarker odors for detecting and excluding at APHIS ports or points of contact, insect infestations in agricultural commodities. Insect pest damage is a significant problem for U.S. agriculture, with feeding damage decreasing overall yield, lowering crop value, and introducing pathogenic microbes. Domestic, long-distance, and off-shore transiting of insect pests is also a serious concern to U.S. agriculture and presents food security, ecological, and economic concerns. This is true for numerous genera of insect pests and agricultural products (hosts). Tephritid fruit flies are an example of a current and potentially invasive threat. For instance, the medfly (Ceratitis capitata), mexfly (Anastrepha ludens) and Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) are the target of APHIS domestic and international activities and pose serious threats to U.S. agriculture. Indeed, three Bactrocera and one Cerititas species have established themselves in Hawaii, and there has been an increase in trap captures of the Oriental fruit fly in California and Florida. Because female fruit fly ovipositors do not leave obvious damage to the host and developing larvae reside within the host, visual inspection for infestation is difficult. However, when infested by fruit fly larvae, hosts can emit different odors relative to intact, non-infested hosts. These changes in odors can be a result of larval feeding damage, larval frass, odors from larvae, or from microbes introduced by the larvae. This difference in odors has prompted APHIS personnel to investigate use of existing portable detection technology to identify infested hosts in the transiting stream.

Utilizing expertise of personnel and resources at United States Department of Agriculture -Agricultural Research Service, Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology and United States Department of Agriculture - Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ), Center for Plant Health Science, and Technology Florida labs, this collaborative project will use local A. suspensa as an initial model on several local hosts to develop a standardized approach for the collection and analysis of odors of intact and infested hosts. Comparison of obtained odor profiles will provide biomarker odors, which will be identified and validated. This knowledge will be provided to APHIS cooperators for evaluation and validation using known portable detection methods.