Crop Biotech Update

Aphid's Chemical Signals as Biocontrol Agent Against Itself

May 21, 2010

Aphid is one of the world's most destructive insect pests that costs gardeners and farmers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. In addition, aphids have the ability to develop resistance to pesticides, thus growers are forced to use more amount of chemicals in their fields.

This led a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to develop a biocontrol agent against the aphids. Ronald J. Nachman, one of the ARS scientists, have been studying chemical signals called neuropeptides. When the neuropeptides are broken down by enzymes in the body, they control and regulate various body processes of aphids like digestion, respiration, water intake and excretion. Nachman is developing neuropeptide mimics which have modified molecular structures which will not break down and thus, the pest will deteriorate due to disrupted body processes. These neuropeptides, known as insect kinnins, are very target specific, having no effect on other organisms.

For more information, visit http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2010/100517.htm.