How do you control insect pests without damaging biodiversity?
The Robin Lab
Helicoverpa armigera (the cotton boll worm) is the reason transgenic cotton is grown in Australia and many parts of the world. It is one of the largest pests of cotton but it very polyphagous and is a pest on many other horticultural crops.
We are working with colleagues at the CSIRO in Canberra on the genomes of Helicoverpa armigera and related species. We are particularly interested in the population genomics of this species with the aim of developing a rapid response to resistance when resistance to Bt or other insecticides break out.
Recently Sue Song from my lab had a manuscript accepted in Heredity that quantifies the amount of nuclear DNA variation in H. armigera and the extent to which population wide variation in one place in the genome corralates with that at neighbouring parts (a pattern called linkage disequilibrium). It turns out that these moths have extremely high levels of nucleotide variation (consistent with the eye colour variation in Adam's picture on the right) and very low level of linkage disequilibrium. We will therefore need a high density of markers if we are to identify selective sweeps around insecticide resistance (or other ) genes.
Helicoverpa folks in my lab:
Sue Song (PhD student)
David Clarke (PhD Student- based at CSIRO)
Angela McGaughran (Postdoc- based at CSIRO)
Dr. John Oakeshott (CSIRO)
Dr. Lars Jermiin (CSIRO)
Photo: Adam K. Williams with the Helicoverpa armigera eye colour mutants he isolated from a lab culture