Comparing Rearing Efficiency and Competitiveness of Sterile Male Strains Produced by Genetic, Transgenic or Symbiont-based Technologies

Insect pests are causing an enormous burden to human health, agriculture and veterinary activities in every continent of the world. Their control is of the utmost importance for the survival and well-being of humankind. The control of insect pests using an area-wide integrated pest management approach that includes a Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has been a major objective of past and present CRPs. As a result, significant progress has been made with the development of SIT technologies, but gaps in knowledge remain and refinement of current approaches is still needed. Moreover, the introduction of measures that make the SIT more effective and cost efficient would be highly desirable.

The SIT has also been used to mitigate the problem of introduction and establishment of invasive species in the Americas, Europe and Asia where tephritid fruit flies, mosquitoes and lepidopterans (moths) are considered a major problem. This is reflected by the many requests for support by Member States in the area of insect pest control for these three groups of species. Operational use of SIT continues to reveal areas where new technologies are needed to improve efficiency, and thus lead to more cost effective programmes.

These technologies need to be expanded to other insects of economic and medical importance. There are many options to increase the efficiency of the SIT, e.g. improved mass rearing, release technology, quality control, etc., even when operational programmes are already being implemented. However, one critical area identified by programme managers, where important advances can be made concerns the improvement of strains that are being reared and released. One example of how strain improvement can significantly enhance SIT applicability and efficiency has been the development and the use of genetic sexing strains (GSS) of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, and the Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens in AW-IPM programmes. These technologies were mainly developed through the Agency’s CRP programme with support from the FAO/IAEA Insect Pest Control Laboratory in Seibersdorf.

The SIT is currently being integrated in programmes that target several important fruit fly and lepidopteran species where the development of improved strains would lead to major increases in applicability and efficiency of the SIT component. Innovative methods to address strain related issues that will improve the management of agricultural, veterinary and human pests were developed during the CRP entitled: “Development and evaluation of improved strains of insect pests for SIT”. These methods for pest control include the development of several new GSS using biotechnologies (i.e. genetic manipulation). This new CRP builds on the knowledge gained from that CRP and the availability of newly developed strains to a next phase of comparative assessment and validation of the performance of sterile males produced by classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based approaches and their suitability for integration into AW-IPM programs. Of significance to the comparative evaluation, refinement and validation of available or newly developed strains is the assessment of potential horizontal transfer phenomena.

The CRP will mainly focus on the following specific research objectives:

  • To comparatively evaluate the performance of sterile males produced by classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based technologies
  • To refine, if necessary, existing technologies for the development and application of strains for the control of agricultural pests and disease vectors
  • To assess potential horizontal transfer phenomena towards the use of strains developed by transgenic or symbiont-based approaches for SIT applications.

The following priority topics will be addressed:

  • Comparison of strains of agricultural importance produced by classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based technologies with the performance of sterile males.
  • Comparison of strains of veterinary importance produced by classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based technologies with the performance of sterile males.
  • Comparison of strains of medical importance produced by classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based technologies with the performance of sterile males.
  • A set of SIT strains developed with robust marking properties for field use.
  • Refined strains with improved characteristics such as sexing, mass rearing, mating competitiveness, sterility, pathogen interference for SIT applications.
  • Stable classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based strains as assessed by long-term and large scale production.
  • Strains for new target species of agricultural, veterinary and medical importance generated by the use of available technologies.
  • SIT strains of agricultural, veterinary and medical importance assessed for potential horizontal transfer phenomena.
  • Mass rearing and semi-field validation of at least three new strains developed by either classical genetic, transgenic or symbiont-based technologies.

Participants:

Fourteen participants: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Thailand, Singapore, United States of America.

Reports:

Project Officer:

Kostas Bourtzis