Researchers Discover a Wild Strawberry That Resists Attacks from a Major Agricultural Pest

A team of researchers has found a type of wild strawberry that inhibits the growth of the spotted wing fly, a major agricultural pest. The flies are responsible for decimating crops of berries and other soft fruits. By studying a berry that prevents the development of fly larvae, researchers may be able to develop new methods of dealing with the pests. The findings are in a paper that was just published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

The spotted wing fly (Drosophila suzukii) is a species of fruit fly that was first discovered in Japan. Unlike most fruit flies, spotted wing flies prefer to lay eggs in fresh, not rotting, fruits. This makes them a serious agricultural pest since their favorite place to lay eggs is in soft berries, including cherries, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. The female lays her eggs in a berry and the larvae eat the fruit immediately after hatching. When spotted wing flies end up on a berry farm, farmers can lose up to 90% of their crop very quickly. This problem has led researchers to investigate methods of controlling the flies.

Researchers from Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany collaborated with a local strawberry breeder to test different strawberry species and strains for spotted wing fly resistance. The team exposed a variety of strawberries to spotted wing flies. While most of the strawberries were vulnerable, one wild species appeared to have a way of fighting back. In this one wild strain, larval development was inhibited and the team only rarely saw mature adults emerge. The research team believes that developing similar berry cultivars could help eliminate pest problems.

Spotted wing flies have been a serious problem for berry farmers but cultivating fly-resistant varieties of fruit could help. The research team did identify a wild strawberry with the ability to inhibit the growth of fly larvae. The next step is genomic analysis. The team is already planning follow-up studies to isolate resistance genes. Identifying these genes could lead to the development of crops that resist spotted wing fly attacks.

REFERENCE

Xiaoyun Gong et al. Strawberry Accessions with Reduced Drosophila suzukii Emergence From Fruits. Frontiers in Plant Science (2016).

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