DNA model to be created for wireworm research


26 August 2022
First phase of collaborative research project detailed by team leader.

New research model helps address wireworm challenge 

THE first phase of a collaborative project looking at wireworm control, is focusing on a DNA model.
Following an upward trend in wireworm damage in potato crops throughout the UK, the new research model Enigma, which was launched by Fera in January, has set its sights on further understanding the pest and finding an end-to-end solution to help support the future of the industry.

Wireworm, the larvae of click beetle, is well known to potato growers, and the pattern of damage it causes is changing according to Dr Larissa Collins, Entomology R&D Team Leader at Fera.

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She said: “The industry is yet to understand why and how these damage patterns are altering. Very little research has been done on wireworm in the UK since the inter-war period, so it’s about time we look into this pest that has been causing significant damage to a wide range of crops. Fera has identified that R&D is required to understand, in greater detail, the current wireworm species affecting crops and also the lifecycles of wireworm to enable producers to successfully use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to control the pest.”
The first, industry-funded, stage of the R&D project, Enigma I, will focus on three main stages over a three-year period. 
“Initially, we need a better understanding of which species of wireworm are causing damage in which crops and the parameters that influence this.
“We can solve the identification problem with molecular technology,” said Larissa. “The team at Fera will build on background work to create a DNA model that can quickly identify wireworm species," she said. “Following this, we’ll be looking at the ecology of these different species and understanding the behaviour of the pest in crops including potatoes."

“We’ll also look at whether we can use frass, which is a term for insect faeces, in damaged crops to determine which species are causing the damage, and sequence wireworm gut contents to determine what they have been feeding on.”

This information will allow the Enigma I team to update sampling strategies and better understand which species are causing crop damage and when. 
Larissa said the team will also have to ascertain more information on the lifecycles of some of the species that are found to be causing crop damage where this information is unknown, in order to provide information on when best to target the pest for control. 

More details and further updates about the wireworm project are included in Potato Review magazine. If you don't already subscribe and would like to receive a copy, click here.

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