Technology to Prevent Pest Invasions

Dan Pest/Pest Control, Technology, This Land of Ours, USDA-APHIS

Using technology to prevent pest invasions. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

The Oriental Fruit Fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) is a destructive agricultural pest in many parts of the world. It is a tropical species that is widespread through much of the mainland of Southern Asia, neighboring islands, and in Africa. Oriental fruit fly was first found in Hawaii in the mid-1940s. It was found on the U.S. mainland in Florida in 2002 and 2015. It is known to attack more than 400 fruits and vegetables, including apricots, cherries, citrus, figs, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes.

This week we’re focusing on technology in agriculture. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) uses the sterile insect technique to prevent invasions of damaging exotic fruit fly pests, which are among the most destructive pests of fruits and vegetables in the world. This technique releases large numbers of sterilized flies to reduce the probability of invasive flies finding fertile mates. PPQ is investigating the use of CRISPR gene editing technologies to develop strains of single-sex fruit flies for use in sterile insect technique programs.

The ability to produce and release large quantities of sterile, male flies can efficiently suppress pest populations that would otherwise damage fruits and vegetables. PPQ is also working to engineer CRISPR antimicrobials to specifically target bacterial pathogens. This effort to overcome antimicrobial resistance and leave beneficial microbes unharmed could allow long-term control of insect pathogens that reduce the efficiency of sterile insect technique programs, and plant pathogens that directly harm crops.

Information provided by USDA APHIS

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Technology to Prevent Pest Invasions

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.