Associate Professor, Department of Entomology University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, PAKISTAN
Insect functional genomics for the development of innovative green plant protection strategies
Host: D. Ndolo
Insect pests seriously threaten global food security, causing annual yield losses of up to 40%. While synthetic, broad-spectrum insecticides remain effective for pest control, their misuse poses environmental and health risks. Additionally, overuse of these chemicals can develop resistance in target insects and harm beneficial insect populations, resulting in pest resurgence and secondary outbreaks. Reducing pesticide dependency is, therefore, a key goal of sustainable agriculture. One approach is to explore using environmentally safe products and biological control agents as alternatives. Natural insecticide molecules show promise as they offer higher specificity and selectivity, reducing the need for chemical insecticides. The shift to more natural products would improve agricultural practices and enhance the quality of consumer products. The biodiversity of insect parasitoids provides a valuable source of bioactive genes/peptides that could be used to develop safer strategies for controlling crop pests. Researchers can develop new bioinsecticides and plant protection methods by studying the molecular and functional aspects of host-parasitoid interactions in insects. This case study focuses on isolating and characterizing insecticidally bioactive genes from the reproductive secretion of the female parasitoid wasp Aenasius arizonensis (Girault) (=Aenasius bambawalei Hayat). This wasp is highly effective in controlling the cotton mealybug Phenacoccus solenopsis Tinsley, a significant pest that has caused substantial losses in cotton production in Pakistan since 2005. Through an integrated approach of functional and molecular studies, the isolated genes/peptides from the parasitoids were studied/ examined to understand the host-parasitoid interactions and their potential to develop effective insect pest control methods.
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