Subtropical Insect Pests of Vegetables and Ornamental Plants
Subtropical Insects and Horticulture Research
Project Number: 6034-22320-002-00
Start Date: Apr 21, 2011
End Date: Mar 31, 2016
1. Prevent invasions of chilli thrips and whiteflies by developing genetic tools to track/predict/monitor and ultimately aid in controlling movement from likely sources of infestation and suppress established populations with biologically-based and environmentally-sound techniques.
1a. Determine the global sources of invasive chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis and describe the global genetic diversity of this pest species so that effective international and national barriers can be erected to further introductions.
1b. Investigate biological control and ecological interactions of chilli thrips and whiteflies with their natural enemies in order to promote their environmentally sound control in vegetable and ornamental crops
2. Investigate structural, physiological, molecular and chemical aspects of the whitefly feeding process and identify inhibitor strategies/molecules that can be used in the development of novel interdiction strategies envisioned to work either through production of transgenic plants or application of chemical treatments that block feeding.
2a. Characterize the method of polymerization that occurs when whitefly saliva is secreted and solidifies during insect probing for the plant vascular tissue.
2b. Determine the structural composition of salivary sheaths and the source of the precursors.
2c. Identify small molecule inhibitors of the whitefly feeding process using the artificial diet system as a bioassay.
Research will focus on establishing a DNA barcoding reference data set for S. dorsalis that will allow construction of a robust global molecular phylogeny for this species using both mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) and nuclear genes to be identified. A commercially available predatory mite (Amblyseius swirskii) will be evaluated for sustainable control of chilli thrips, whiteflies and other key pests in ornamental and vegetable crops using banker plants and ‘predator-in-first’ tactics. Molecular and biochemical methods will be used to develop a model describing whitefly salivary sheath formation and to identify inhibitors of this process that can be evaluated for use in control strategies.