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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Biologically Based Management of Invasive Insect Pests and Weeds

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Title: Insect and plant interactions: then and now (honoring hessian fly USDA program)

item Legaspi, Jesusa - Susie

Submitted to: Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2012
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The Hessian Fly, Mayetiola destructor (Say) (Cecidomyiidae), is currently a key economic pest of wheat in North America, North Africa, Western Europe, New Zealand and Southwest Asia. The fly was the first invasive pest to cause economic damage in the US, transported to the US from Southwest Asia (along with wheat) on sailing vessels during Revolutionary War. The common name is derived from mercenary Hessian soldiers during that era. The fly is controlled through the use of resistant wheat varieties. However, the fly is remarkably adaptive. By 2000, Hessian flies had overcome the four primary wheat resistance genes – taking just 14 years to do so. The fly does not chew on wheat leaves – instead injecting compounds through saliva that activate certain wheat genes, while deactivating others. Wheat plants respond to attack through resistance mechanisms, while the Hessian fly attempts to activate plant genes making the wheat release liquid from their leaves for larval feeding. Therefore, critical research addresses how the fly overcomes plant resistance, in order to enhance plant durability by combining resistance genes or other novel strategies. I present a history of Hessian fly research at Purdue University beginning in the 1920’s at the USDA, ARS Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit in West Lafayette, Indiana, up to the present collaboration between scientists at USDA and other universities.

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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