Sustainable alternatives to neonicotinamide pesticides for flea beetle control using plant genetics

PENFIELD_J21CASE

Neonicotinamide pesticides were used to control the cabbage stem flea beetle on oilseed rape, but were banned Europe-wide because of their negative impacts on non-target pollinator species. Since the ban the UK, oilseed rape cropping area has fallen by one third as famers have lost crops to flea beetle attacks, threatening the viability of the UK supply chain and increasing reliance on imports.

While oilseed rape is highly susceptible to flea beetle attack, some closely related species show some resistance for currently unknown reasons. The aim of this project will be to identify the basis of this resistance and evaluate its potential for flea beetle control in oilseed rape, either by interspecific crossing or transgenic means. There will be opportunities for training in plant genetics, entomology, genomics, bioinfomatics, field trials, molecular biology and biochemistry as well as the chance to work very closely with plant breeders at Elsoms Seeds, one of the UK’s leading plant breeding companies. This will include spending work placements working with breeders to plan and analyse field trials, and develop mapping populations.

The studentship will especially suit applicants who would like to gain direct experience of the plant breeding industry as part of their PhD, or who are interested in using cutting edge fundamental science to solve agricultural problems.

References:

Döring, A. and Ulber, B. (2020). Performance of cabbage stem flea beetle larvae (Psylliodes chrysocephala) in brassicaceous plants and the effect of glucosinolate profiles. Entomol Exp Appl, 168:200-208. doi:10.1111/eea.12891

Gruber, M., Alahakoon, U., Taheri, A., Nagubushana, N., Zhou, R., Aung, B., Sharpe, A., Hannoufa, A., Bonham-Smith, P., and Hegedus, D, DD. (2018). The biochemical composition and transcriptome of cotyledons from Brassica napus lines expressing the AtGL3 transcription factor and exhibiting reduced flea beetle feeding.
BMC Plant Biol. Apr 16;18(1):64

Soroka, J. and Grenkow, L. (2014). Susceptibility of Brassicaceous Plants to Feeding by Flea Beetles, Phyllotreta spp. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 106(6):2557–2567. doi: 10.1603/EC10151