Biotech Updates

Fighting Insect Pests with Genetic Targeting

January 16, 2013

Crops such as oilseed rape, wheat, potato, and tomato are constantly fighting pests and diseases. Among these pests, whitefly and green peach aphids cause millions in terms of crop losses through virus transmission and feeding. Dr. Sasia Hogenhout of the John Innes Centre (JIC) said that aphids and whiteflies are called "mosquitoes of plants because like mosquitoes they feed on the vascular system and they transmit quite a number of viruses."

Dr. Hogenhout and her JIC colleagues are examining the genetic code of closely related pests, including whitefly and green aphids, looking for new ways to control them. The team has developed plant-mediated RNAi, a genetic modification technique which allows plants to produce molecules that prevent insects from properly expressing certain genes. Dr. Hogenhout added that they are at the stage of developing techniques like plant-mediated RNAi and silencing technologies, and also the sequencing stage.

For more details about this research, read the news release available at