Aphids Use Sight to Avoid Deadly Bacteria, Could Lead to Pest Control

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Pea aphids, a serious agricultural pest, have the ability to see and avoid common, aphid-killing bacteria on plant leaves, according to a new Cornell University study.

Pea aphids lack immune-response genes, making them highly susceptible to infection. In the lab, pea aphids that became infected with virulent strains of the bacteria all died. They make up for their immune deficiency by reproducing in large numbers but can still die from bacterial infection at a high rate. t turns out, the bacteria (Pseudomonas syringae) fluoresce in ultraviolet (UV) light – wavelengths that exist in sunlight. Furthermore, pea aphids can distinguish the unique blue-green light that virulent strains of P. syringae emit.

The findings have implications for pest control. For example, organic farmers could spread virulent P. syringae on leaves to deter pea aphids, though more study is needed to test the effectiveness of these strategies.

NIFA supports this research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Read the full story at the Cornell Chronicle. Contact: Tory A. Hendry, Cornell University. 

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