Colleagues at NRI and horticultural research organisation NIAB EMR (National Institute of Agricultural Botany East Malling Research), have been awarded a BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) Industrial Partnership Award to develop a new technology to protect soft fruit from Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).
A fruit fly which originally came from Japan, the Spotted Wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) has spread across the world, first to the Americas, then mainland Europe before first being detected at NIAB EMR’s facility in East Malling, Kent in 2012.
This globally important pest is attracted to underripe fruit and lays its eggs in berries and stone fruit before harvest, resulting in costs of £30 million per year to combat the pest in the UK alone. The project builds on previous research conducted at NIAB EMR, which found that SWD will avoid laying their eggs in or around fruit previously exposed to another fly species, Drosophila melanogaster. Together, the team will identify the chemical signals responsible for this avoidance behaviour, with the aim of producing a novel, naturally derived product which can be applied to fruit for crop protection.
Prof David Hall and Dr Daniel Bray and colleagues at NRI will be responsible for identifying the chemicals which deter SWD from egg laying, and the mechanisms through which they are detected. The project is led by Dr Michelle Fountain and Dr Glen Powell at NIAB EMR and builds on the PhD thesis of Dr Bethan Shaw, an entomologist at EMR. The work is supported by industrial partners Berry Garden Growers and the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board), who will ensure that the research findings have maximum impact for fruit growers.
This project is part of a long-running collaboration between NIAB EMR and NRI. The two institutions have worked together for over 25 years, conducting a portfolio of applied research in support of the UK horticultural industry.
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