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Stealth Worms May Improve Insect Pest Control

tions in soils for long periods of time before they infect more insects.

This naturally-occurring relationship between the nematodes and their mutualistic bacteria has existed for millennia. EPNs are found in terrestrial environments, including deserts, rainforests, grasslands and other ecological systems, offering a tremendous array of possibilities for study. Stock, who has been researching and interpreting the evolutionary relationships of nematodes for the past 15 years, has collected them in Arizona and from other locations worldwide.

In Costa Rica, for example, she is working with a collaborative team from four universities: the University of Vermont, University of Florida, University of Nebraska and University of Costa Rica, to learn where EPN communities are concentrated. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

"We're looking at all groups of nematodes in tropical rainforests," Stock says. "We sweep from the tops of the trees all the way to the ground, searching for nematodes that are potential insect pathogens. The misconception is that they are concentrated more in temperate zones, but this is not true. We're trying to unveil the mystery of nematode diversity in the tropic regions."

In Jordan, she and her colleagues are surveying insect-parasitic nematodes from soil-inhabiting insects and other habitats. The International Arid Lands Consortium, which includes participating institutions from the United States and the Middle East, is sponsoring the project. The study will offer new information and tools for developing non-chemical and non-toxic pest control programs in desert and semi-desert areas.

"These nematodes from Jordan have the potential to provide an environmentally safe alternative for controlling insect pests in agricultural and forestry systems, and also for controlling insect pests of human and veterinary importance," Stock says.

In each location the scientists start with biotic surv
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Source:University of Arizona


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