Charles Sturt University
Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation

Tracing the origins of the diamondback moth for better biocontrol

The diamondback moth is one of agriculture’s worst agricultural pests, it has an appetite for brassica crops like Canola and is adept at developing resistance to pesticides.

Diamondback moth larva photo by P ZhuA team of international scientists, including the Graham Centre’s Professor Geoff Gurr, has recently published research tracing the origin and historical spread of the diamondback moth.

Professor Gurr says the research published in the journal Nature Communications, is the most in-depth genetic analysis of any type of living organism, even humans.

“This research has analysed the full genomes of more than 530 diamondback moths collected from 114 locations across 55 countries.

“We have discovered the diamondback moth originated in South America, and started moving about 500 years ago, initially through Central and North America before invading Europe, Asia and finally the Pacific,” Professor Gurr said.

“Most of this movement was accidental by human activities, European colonists and traders, transporting commodities across oceans.

“Along the way, the diamondback moth used its adaptive capacity to cope with the new climates and plants it encountered.

“Of course, the global expansion of agriculture, including the brassica plants it specialises in, fuelled growth of populations sizes.

“Genetically speaking, Australia has a ‘young’ population of diamondback moth but even here it has adapted to feeding on native, brassica weeds as well as important crops.

“This finding that the pest originates in South America is a major breakthrough because all previous theories about its origin, such as the Mediterranean or even in China, had us barking up the wrong tree.

“Now that we know where the diamondback moth originally came from we can focus our energy on looking in the right place for better natural predators and parasites to help give us control of this devastating pest.”

The study was led by Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in China where Professor Gurr is a visiting professor.

Read the full published article.


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