PhysOrg.com - Sugar may be a treat for humans, but for aphids it can be life threatening. A $452,000 grant to Cornell and Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) will fund research exploiting this vulnerability to control agriculturally important insect pests.
When aphids and similar insects feed on plants, they transmit viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing microbes to the plant, there is an urgent need for new strategies for insect control, because insects are developing resistance to traditional broad spectrum insecticides. Douglas and Georg Jander, an associate scientist at BTI, proposed a new method to deter insects: genetically engineering plants to protect themselves by disrupting crucial processes in the insect gut for coping with the high levels of sugar in their diet of plant sap.
Genes in the insect can be specifically targeted without any side effect on the plants. RNA interference (RNAi) or gene silencing will be tested in two model plant species - Arabidopsis and tobacco - and with insect pests including the peach-potato aphid, the sweet potato whitefly and the potato psyllid.