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New super-pest hybrid could cause global crop damage

By Canadian Packaging staff   

General Sustainability corn earworm cotton bollworm crop pests CSIRO hybrid crop pest pesticide resistant crop pests PNAS

Created by Nature, a pair of the plant’s top crop pests have hybridized into a possible single global threat.

Q: What do you get when you cross a cotton bollworm with a corn earworm?
A: A frankenstein of the world’s two most damaging crop pests who already had pesticide-resistant genes.

It’s no joke, as a new Nature-created hybridization of the Helicoverpa armigera (cotton bollworm) and the Helicoverpa zea (corn earworm) have physically joined forces to create a “super-caterpillar” that could spell trouble for the global crop industries of corn and cotton.

While the new hybrid has so far only been found in Brazil, the Australian scientists who discovered the hybrid pest say that it could spread, and spread quickly.

On their own, both pests can and do attack corn, cotton, tomato and soy bean crops—along with others—causing billions of dollars in damages annually.

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One of the big problems with the new hybrid, is that the cotton bollworm has already developed a resistance to every type of pesticide man has thrown at it, and with the mixing of the genes, the hybrid will possess the same pesticide resistance as it attacks crops, creating a far-wider swathe of destruction.

Right now, however, researchers point to the fact that not ever one of the hybridized worms has the anti-pesticide capabilities, but there are enough hybrids that do to cause alarm should the “super-damaging” hybrid eventually become its own species.

“A hybrid such as this could go completely undetected should it invade another country. It is critical that we look beyond our own backyard to help fortify Australia’s defense and response to biosecurity threats,” states CSIRO’s Biosecurity Risk Evaluation and Preparedness Program research director Dr Paul De Barro.

The Research was originally published in the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA) journal.

Source: CSIRO

Image taken from http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/95-065.htm  – the site has great data on the corn earworm.

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