When you look out on a golden-yellow field of oilseed rape you might not think you're seeing a battleground, but crops including oilseed rape, wheat, potato and tomato are engaged in a constant fight with pests and disease, trying to stay one step ahead.
As the world's human population looks set to increase to nine billion people by 2050, keeping plants healthy and productive is going to be essential to making sure there is enough food to go round.Aphids damage crops by feeding on them and transmitting plant diseases. "Crop pests are emerging earlier due to global warming and new variants are arriving from other countries, bringing new plant viruses", said Dr Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich, an institute strategically funded by the BBSRC.
Among these pests whitefly and green peach aphids cause hundreds of millions of pounds of damage and loss to crops through transmitting viruses and feeding. Both species are notorious for demonstrating the ability to rapidly develop resistance to conventional pesticides, and both attack a wide variety of crops, including cabbage, lettuce, beet, oilseed rape and potato. In UK cereal crops aphids alone can cause yield losses of over 40 per cent, and insect pests are responsible for an estimated 15 per cent of all crop losses globally. Dr Hogenhout said: "The aphids and whitefly themselves are problematic but they also transmit more than half of all plant viruses. They're called the mosquitoes of plants because like mosquitoes they feed on the vascular system and they transmit quite a number of viruses."
Via Kamoun Lab @ TSL, Knapco