Genes could provide clue to elimination of wheat pest

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Agriculture, Ars

US Scientists are mapping the genes of a wheat pest in an attempt
to halt the fly's destructive effect on crops and thereby safeguard
yields.

The Hessian fly attacks wheat, barley and rye by feeding on the plant's sap causing widespread and costly damage to crops.

Many attempts have been made to breed a wheat variety which is resistant to the pest's toxic saliva but these are only applicable in the short-term as the fly is highly adaptable.

Specially engineered crops designed to survive the Hessian fly could see a re-emergence of the fly within six to 10 years thanks to its ability to mutate.

Researchers at the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have now identified 97 different types of genes in the insect's genetic make-up - a discovery they hope will lead to the formulation of a more long-lasting protective counter gene in wheat.

The scientists have also mapped resistant genes in wheat, helping breeders to incorporate several different protective genes in the one plant.

According to the ARS, the fly can cause up to $100 million (€76.9m) worth of damage and crop losses in a single year.

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