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Researchers Are Planning To Fight Insect Pests By Analyzing Their DNA

October 3rd, 2017

Researchers Are Planning To Fight Insect Pests By Analyzing Their DNA

Preventing crop damage caused by insect pests has always been a challenge for experts. This is due to the fact that arthropods are so numerous on this planet. Arthropods are essential for maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Some insects are beneficial to crops, while others are devastating to crops. How can one single insect species be targeted for eradication while leaving other beneficial insects unharmed? There is no easy answer to this question. However, researchers believe that genetic testing may be the key to the future of pest control.

Arthropods make up seventy five percent of all animal life on planet earth. One third of our food crops are pollinated by insects. Then again, one fifth of all crops in the world are destroyed by insect pests each year. Many insect pests have evolved to withstand various insecticides. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the genetics involved with insecticide-resistance, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is planning on sequencing the genomes of five thousand different insect species. This program has been named the “i5k” program.

There are not enough entomologists and other researchers in the world to study each species of arthropod. The i5k program is unique in that it fosters international collaboration concerning arthropod-related scientific knowledge. This new program will establish one single internet database where arthropod-related data can be referenced by any expert in the world. Entomologists around the world will be able to upload the most recent and sophisticated insect-related studies onto this online database.

The i5k program has already led to several breakthroughs in the fields of entomology and public health. For example, an insect physiologist, Felix Guerrero, has identified particular cattle-tick genes that may be successful for developing a vaccine to fight tick-borne diseases. These genes could eventually lead to the successful development of a vaccine to cure lyme disease in humans.

Do you believe that scientific inquiry concerning insects will become dominated by genetic exploration in the future?

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