Aussie scientists map genomes of two "megapests" in breakthrough for agricultural sector

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-01 14:34:04|Editor: Zhang Dongmiao
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CANBERRA, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Protecting vital agriculture from invasive "megapests" could soon become a thing of the past, after an international research team led by scientists in Australia successfully mapped the genome of two prominent crop-eating caterpillars.

Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on Tuesday announced that they identified more than 17,000 genes in the genomes of the cotton bollworm and corn earworm, in a development which could save billions of dollars every year.

According to CSIRO Scientist Dr. John Oakeshott, the corn earworm and the cotton bollworm are two of the most destructive crop-eating caterpillars in the world, and are responsible for more than 5 billion U.S. dollars in "control costs" and crop damage around the world every year.

"It is the single most important pest of agriculture in the world, making it humanity's greatest competitor for food and fiber," Oakeshott said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Its genomic arsenal has allowed it to outgun all our known insecticides through the development of resistance, reflecting its name - armigera which means armed and warlike."

Oakeshott's colleague and co-researcher Dr. Karl Gordon said that while current efforts to quell the influence of the bugs have been relatively successful, it would be cheaper in the long term to "comprehensively study" the pests and work out how to stop them scientifically.

"We need the full range of agricultural science," Gordon said in a statement.

"Our recent analyses of the complete genome, its adaptations and spread over the years are a huge step forward in combating these megapests."

The study is expected to be used in finding an alternative way to prevent crop damage by using "resistance profiling" for the bugs which are present in different environments.