Could Spider Venom Be Used As A Novel Insecticide For Major Crop Pests?

Could spider venom be used as a new novel insecticide? Image ©giovzaid85 via Flickr

Could spider venom be used as a new novel insecticide? Image ©giovzaid85 via Flickr

A new protein discovered in the venom of Australian tarantulas can also kill insect pests that consume the venom orally. The protein known as orally active insecticidal peptide-1 (OAIP-1) was found to be highly toxic to insects that consumed it, with a similar efficacy to the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid. In particular, the protein was found to be highly toxic to the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa zea.

Many spider species have evolved insecticidal toxins in their venom, which they inject into the prey through their fangs. Consequently it has often been presumed that the venom would not be toxic when ingested orally by insects pests, and therefore would not be suitable for use as an insecticide. Conversely, the scientists in this study discovered it is possible to isolate spider venom peptides with high levels of oral insecticidal activity. The team used the venom from Selenotypus plumipes which is a large tarantula native to Australia which despite its large size is not harmful to humans.

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Update: Plant Health News (23 Oct 13)

New survey reveals role of botanical gardens in achieving food security © Craig Elliott (CC BY-NC-ND)

New survey reveals role of botanical gardens in achieving food security © Craig Elliott (CC BY-NC-ND)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the role of botanic gardens in food security,  how grazers and pollinators shape plant evolution and a new soil testing kit designed for smallholder farmers.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (16 Oct 13)

ants tending scale

Many species of scale insect form mutualistic interactions with ants © Bob Peterson (CC BY-SA)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include observations on the mutualism between armoured scale insects and ants, information about the Colletotrichum orbiculare species complex and the  biosecurity implications of new technology and discovery in plant virus research.

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Update: Plant Health News (09 Oct 13)

Crop diversification is common amoung farmers wishing to lessen their dependence on one crop © CGIAR Climate (CC BY-NC-SA)

Crop diversification lessens farmers’ dependence on one crop © CGIAR Climate (CC BY-NC-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including a new rice variety to cushion farmers against crop loss through blast, a checklist of scale insect pests in Iran and Asian citrus growers looking to diversity their crop with bananas.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Update: New Pest & Disease Records (02 Oct 13)

Soybean, an important crop around the world, has been found infected with Cowpea mild mottle in India © H. Zell (CC BY-SA)

Soybean, a key crop, has been found infected with Cowpea mild mottle in India © H. Zell (CC BY-SA)

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include a pith necrosis caused by Xanthomonas perforans on tomato plants, the first report of dieback of mango caused by Fusarium decemcellulare in China and a distinct strain of Cowpea mild mottle virus infecting soybean in India.

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New strategy required for delaying insect resistance to Bt crops

Kenyan farmer Mary Ngare in her maize field damaged by stem borers © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Kenyan farmer Mary Ngare in her maize field damaged by stem borers © CIMMYT (CC BY-NC-SA)

Transgenic Bt crops have been grown around the world since the 1990s and have contributed to increased yields by controlling agricultural pests. Due to the importance of this technology, there has been continuous study into the development of resistance to Bt crops and how best to avoid this happening. A recent investigation into the rapid spread of Bt resistance in South Africa has revealed one of the more surprising discoveries to date, that the maize stalk borer (Busseola fusca) has evolved Bt maize resistance inherited as a dominant trait for the first time. This has significant impacts on the management of Bt crops, as current methods for sustaining susceptibility rely on the recessive inheritance of Bt resistance.

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Update: Plant Health News (25 Sep 13)

Potato harvest, Potatoes in India prone to foliar necrosis © Johan Bichel Lindegaard

Potato harvest, Potatoes in India prone to foliar necrosis © Johan Bichel Lindegaard

We’ve selected a few of the latest stories about plant health. Records this week include the identification of plants’ natural defense mechanisms against pests, the first report of tomato yellow spot virus in Brazil and recordings of foliar necrosis of potato in India. 

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