Whitefly adults on a leaf

Whiteflies threaten food security around the world. The tiny insects attack staple crops like beans, tomatoes, and cassava by transmitting destructive plant viruses as they feed on the plants' sugar-rich sap.

Special bacteria passed from whitefly mothers to offspring may be key to fighting these insect pests. 

Study Identifies Target for Natural Whitefly Control

August 1, 2016

Whitefly adults on a leaf

Whiteflies threaten food security around the world. The tiny insects attack staple crops like beans, tomatoes, and cassava by transmitting destructive plant viruses as they feed on the plants' sugar-rich sap.

Special bacteria passed from whitefly mothers to offspring may be key to fighting these insect pests. The host cells transporting the bacteria to the next generation also carry unique whitefly genes that control cell mobility and division, according to a new study from entomologist Angela Douglas, Cornell researchers, and an international team of collaborators.

The finding could lead to a targeted, pesticide-free approach to whitefly management. Douglas is already at work on related research funded by ACSF’s Academic Venture Fund that may be able to apply this new understanding.

“What we want to do next is target the molecular products of these genes and block their transmission, because they give us very specific targets without bad effects on beneficial insects and other organisms,” Douglas said.

Read more in the Cornell Chronicle.

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