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Surprise in the organic orchard -- a healthier worm in the apple
Date:9/28/2007

Insects can catch more than a cold from certain viruses. Some viruses can be lethal to pest species - turning their insides to soup - without harming beneficial insects or other organisms. Hence they are used as an environmentally friendly means of biological crop protection worldwide. The proverbial worm in the apple, the codling moth caterpillar, has been controlled in European orchards for years with a baculovirus called codling moth granulovirus (CpGV). But in southwest Germany, some organic apple growers noticed that the virus was losing its effectiveness. Pest resistance to chemical insecticides is common in agriculture, but resistance to viruses had never been a problem in the past. However, as reported this week in Science magazine, a single gene in the codling moth can make it 100,000 times less susceptible to the granulovirus. This highlights the need to anticipate the risk of resistance in pest control, not only for insecticides but also viruses.

The discovery was reported by a team of insect virologists and geneticists from the Agricultural Service Centre of Rhineland-Palatinate (DLR Rheinpfalz), the German Federal Biological Research Centre (BBA Darmstadt), the University of Hohenheim, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (MPICE Jena). Starting in 2005, codling moths collected from 13 organic orchards in southwest Germany were tested in the laboratory to confirm that the insects could tolerate granulovirus amounts more than a thousand times higher than previously. Genetic studies showed that the resistance could be transmitted from parents to offspring via one of the sex chromosomes - which helps to explain how the resistance increased so quickly.

The sex chromosomes in humans are called X and Y, with XX females and XY males. This is reversed in moths, where the sex chromosomes are called Z and W, with ZZ males and ZW females. The researchers found that the gene for granulovirus resistance occurs on the Z chr
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Contact: David Heckel
heckle@ice.mpg.de
0049-364-157-1500
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert

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