Work to distinguish aphids that spread plant viruses from those that don’t could lead to decreased insecticide use. USDA scientists are using protein biomarkers to determine an insect’s ability to transmit viruses – viruses that can decrease crop yields and reduce the quality and quantity of fresh foods. Previous work had shown that for aphids to pick up and transmit viruses – the virus must be able to interact with specific aphid proteins that direct movement of the virus through the insect and back into a plant during feeding. Researchers studied greenbug aphids and discovered the ability to transmit yellow dwarf viruses was linked to the presence or absence of nine biomarker proteins found in the insect cells. The findings are expected to lead to development of a test to identify potential disease vectors. The scientists are also working to determine if biomarker-predictor proteins can be found in other insects.
The research supports USDA’s priorities of improving agricultural sustainability and promoting international food security.