Using landscape genomics to improve management of insect pest species

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: School of Life Sciences

Abstract

Insect pests have a widespread negative impact in agriculture, resulting in very large economic loses. Monitoring and surveillance of pest species is fundamental to control their populations and reduce the damage they inflict on crops. This is because an early detection improves the chances of controlling them before they spread out and increase their population size. However, studying the migration of small insects can be problematic due to the difficulty of tracking individuals. In addition, resistance to pest control methods, whether to insecticide or to host-plant resistant cultivars, is becoming an increasingly important issue. Inferring the population structure of pest species and the connectivity across populations and landscapes is key to understand migration patterns, which can be used to inform pest surveillance and control schemes. This fully-funded project provides an exciting opportunity to apply population genomics and evolutionary concepts to improve insect pest management and understand the evolution of resistance.
The project will use Nasonovia ribisnigri, the currant-lettuce aphid, as a model system to evaluate how landscape genomics can be used to improve aphid surveillance and control the spread of resistance alleles. The currant-lettuce aphid, Nasonovia ribisnigri, is a major pest of lettuce crops responsible for large economic losses. One of the most efficient way to reduce aphid infestations and damage is growing host-resistant lettuce cultivars that stop aphids from colonising the plant. However, the capacity of breaking the host-plant resistance mechanism (Rb) has recently evolved in some biotypes. In these circumstances, surveillance and monitoring of crops becomes of great importance to produce early warning information that would improve targeted control of N. ribisnigri before aphids enter the lettuce head. However, the paradox is that whilst winged aphids are quick to colonise the lettuce crop in spring they are unusually scarce in both water traps and suction traps. Understanding the migration patterns of the species is, therefore, fundamental to design efficient methods of capture and control. For this, the project will use genomics to infer the population structure and the levels of gene flow between populations of N. ribisnigri at different geographic scales and different landscapes. This knowledge will be used to develop surveillance methods that maximise the observation of individuals of the species at the early stages of their migration into the crops. Furthermore, these results combined with the development of genome-wide markers for the Rb phenotype will provide fundamental information about the evolution and spread of resistance across the UK.
You will be based at Rothamsted Research working within the Insect Survey group, a national capability dedicated to the monitoring of aphid and moth populations in the UK. You will be registered at the University of Warwick and field work will be carried out closely with the UK's leading lettuce producer G's. Thus, the studentship offers extensive opportunities to engage with one of Europe's leading family-owned fresh produce companies, growing and supplying a vast array of fresh, high quality crops to all the major UK retailer and many European retailers.

People

ORCID iD

Dion Garrett (Student)

Publications

10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/R505171/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021
1941974 Studentship BB/R505171/1 02/10/2017 30/09/2021 Dion Garrett
 
Description Helping to improve forecasting pest insects on Industry Partners farms by validating various field trapping methods. Due to the success of the insect monitoring of 2018-2019; I have helped set up a small suction trap network to improve their pest management strategies on the farms in the UK (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Warwickshire and West Sussex). 5 of these suction traps were purchased from Rothamsted Research last March (2019) and were distributed to G's Fresh in May 2019. I attend grower and agronomist meetings to discuss the pest forecasting, monitoring and control strategies for both the organic and conventional farms.
Exploitation Route The use of small suction traps have demonstrated they are a viable and robust technique to trap large amounts of pest insects, particularly aphids. This trapping method has proven to be effective in understanding current pest pressures within a given area.

The molecular element of this research is especially important into understanding the resistant mechanisms involved in the currant-lettuce aphid resistant to the once resistant lettuce cultivar. The newly assembled genome has led to the development of microsatellites markers which could be used to identify novel control and preventative strategies and study the population of this aphid in the UK and EU, respectively.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description The set up and establishment of a small suction trap network to improve my industry partner's pest management strategies on the farms in the UK (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Warwickshire and West Sussex).
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description CSIRO-Rothamsted/PBRI workshop: Tracking and forecasting of pest and pathogen movements 
Organisation Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
Country Australia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We visited CSIRO, Brisbane to discuss the following: 1. Learning and networking o Technical updates/state of research o Ideas for extending current research/knowledge gaps o Increased international collaboration/new insights and perspectives o Understanding of 'migration' - what it means exactly and how it relates to existing research at different scales o Insights into how monitoring of migratory insects could be done more efficiently 2. How technologies could be integrated o Insights into how data and models can be better linked o Insights into how field ecology could be integrated with new techniques like genetics o Synergies between methods and new perspectives on how integration could work in practice: combined, could some methods be more powerful? 3. Applications/possible collaborations o Opportunities for radar and lidar to monitor moths and other insects in Australia o Idendification of applied questions/stakeholder needs/real-world relevance o Priorities and pathways for exotics o Need more research to support on-ground action o Fall Army Worm o Overlap across disciplines (e.g. ocean current research) o Role for isotopes in post-border incursions
Collaborator Contribution CSIRO organised the meeting at The Ecoprecinct, Brisbane 24-28th Feb 2020. In attendance was several industry partners and levy boards
Impact We will organise a hackathon in July 2020 with RRes and CSIRO scientists to provide insight into new modelling techniques that could be used to improve biosecurity
Start Year 2020
 
Description Industry Partner 
Organisation G's Fresh Beetroot
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Helping to improve forecasting pest insects on Industry Partners farms by validating various field trapping methods. Due to the success of the insect monitoring of 2018-2019; I have helped set up a small suction trap network to improve their pest management strategies on the farms in the UK (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Warwickshire and West Sussex). 5 of these suction traps were purchased from Rothamsted Research last March (2019) and were distributed to G's Fresh in May 2019. I attend grower and agronomist meetings to discuss the pest forecasting, monitoring and control strategies for both the organic and conventional farms.
Collaborator Contribution G's Fresh provide me with an annual £4,000 for travel and fieldwork. They have enabled me to work closely with growers, agronomist and farm staff to gain a well-rounded understanding of the work involved and the pressures (current and past) within agriculture (through meetings, tours and fieldwork). Most importantly, they facilitate very important collaborations and links with industry and research which has allowed me to create focused and relevant fieldwork experiments which have direct, or near direct, applications to industry.
Impact Entomology Forecast modelling Taxonomy Molecular biology Bioinformatics
Start Year 2017