Biotech Updates

Experts Confirm Hybridization of Mega-pests in Brazil

April 11, 2018

Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have confirmed the hybridization of two major pest species into a new and improved mega-pest in Brazil. The evidences of the hybridization are discussed in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

One of the pests is cotton bollworm, which is widespread in Africa, Asia, and Europe costing losses worth billions of dollars annually. It had developed strong resistance against all the pesticides used to control it. The other one is corn earworm, a native of the Americas and had less resistance and host range. The combination of the two, in a novel hybrid with unlimited geographical boundaries, causes for major concern in agriculture.

Through the study, the scientists confirmed that among the group of caterpillars observed, every individual was a hybrid. "No two hybrids were the same suggesting a 'hybrid swarm' where multiple versions of different hybrids can be present within one population," said CSIRO Scientist Dr. Tom Walsh. According to Dr. Craig Anderson, lead author of the study based at the University of Edinburg in the UK, the hybrid study has wide-ranging implications for the agricultural community across the Americas.

"On top of the impact already felt in South America, recent estimates that 65 per cent of the USA's agricultural output is at risk of being affected by the bollworm demonstrates that this work has the potential to instigate changes to research priorities that will have direct ramifications for the people of America, through the food on their tables and the clothes on their backs," Dr. Anderson said.

For more details, read the article from CSIRO.