Enhancing pest management for grains industry

Agriculture Victoria’s Horsham SmartFarm is home to the latest iMapPESTS mobile surveillance sentinels for 12 weeks, as part of a new trial.

In partnership with AUSVEG, SARDI and Hort Innovation, the recently deployed sentinels are monitoring high priority pests and diseases which affect grains, with a particular focus on aphids.

Agriculture Victoria senior research scientist Dr Piotr Trebicki said the sentinels essentially act as a bug catcher.

“The sentinels will collect bugs and we will then take those samples for identification.”

“Due to the volume and variety of bugs caught, identifying them all quickly can be a hard task, but we have developed new technology to streamline this process,” Dr Trebicki said.

This Australian first technology at Agriculture Victoria’s AgriBio will enable scientists to quickly and effectively identify each of the pests using their DNA sequences, of which scientists have created a library of over 200,000.

“The technique works in a similar way to your typical supermarket barcode, but instead of linking each product to a price, it links each individual insect to its DNA sequence.

“DNA works like a fingerprint, allowing researchers to immediately identify each and every species present in a mixed sample, without having to look at them one by one.”

“We paired this metabarcoding technique with a ‘non-destructive’ DNA extraction process,” Dr Trebicki said.

Dr Trebicki said traditional methods would normally require destroying an insect in order to obtain its DNA. While the non-destructive methods enable them to obtain DNA without losing the specimen.

“This is extremely important in the case of pest insects, because it allows us to retain insect specimens which can be used for secondary confirmation, through visual examination, if required, for example in the case where an unexpected species such as a suspect exotic is detected,” he said.

This trial provides great advantages for biosecurity as these sentinels, or other types of insect traps, can be placed anywhere and using the technology developed by Agriculture Victoria quickly identify the presence of dangerous pests.

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