Breakthrough in Monitoring Pesticide Resistance with Genomics

Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a new method using genomics to identify emerging resistance in insects to pesticides, well before it becomes a widespread problem. This breakthrough will give farmers valuable time to adjust their pest management strategies and prolong the effectiveness of existing pesticides.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on March 18, 2024, addresses a critical challenge in agriculture. "Pesticide resistance is a major threat to global food security," explains Dr. Megan Fritz, senior author of the study and associate professor of entomology at UMD. "Current methods for detecting resistance are often slow, making it difficult to react before pests become uncontrollable."

The new method utilizes genomic analysis to pinpoint specific genetic changes in insects associated with resistance to particular toxins. This allows for early detection, even before the resistance translates to widespread crop damage.

In a previous study (2021), Dr. Fritz's team demonstrated the potential of genomics to detect resistance in corn earworms four years before it became a major issue. However, the initial approach required complex and time-consuming analyses.

The latest research builds upon the previous work, offering a more streamlined approach. The researchers focused on corn earworm resistance to Bt toxins, a common type of pesticide used in corn. They successfully identified the specific genetic mutations responsible for resistance to different Bt toxins.

The study revealed that resistance signatures could be detected after just one generation of exposure to Bt toxins. This rapid detection window allows for a proactive approach to pest management.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that some current practices aimed at preventing resistance might be backfiring. The strategy of planting non-Bt corn alongside Bt corn as a refuge for susceptible insects appears to be exposing them to low levels of toxins, inadvertently accelerating Vip3A resistance, the only remaining effective Bt toxin against corn earworm.

Dr. Fritz's findings suggest a need for a multi-pronged approach. Refining Bt corn planting strategies and developing more effective resistance monitoring methods are crucial steps. The new genomic testing framework offers a valuable tool for tracking resistance development and evaluating the success of future resistance prevention strategies.

This research paves the way for a more sustainable and effective approach to pest management, ensuring food security and protecting crop yields for years to come.

Post a Comment