Using an Endosymbiotic Microbe to Combat Wheat Stem Sawflies

(Photo by R. K. D. Peterson)

The wheat stem sawfly damages cereal crops and native grasses to the tune of $350 million over the Northern Great Plains. Adult flies deposit their eggs into the hallow stems of wheat. Damage to the stem occurs when the larvae emerge and feed on the internal parenchyma and vascular tissue of the plant.

In collaboration with the Montana State University Wheat Stem Sawfly Project, headed by entomologist Dr. David Weaver, we are working towards characterizing sawfly-associated Spiroplasma.

This project, funded by the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee, builds on a previous project in which we identified a novel Spiroplasma species, a bacterial endosymbiont,  in the wheat stem sawfly. This project will help obtain a more complete understanding of how this species of bacteria can impact the reproductive biology of the pest flies. The goal of this project is to provide a unique management opportunity to combat this important pest.

Laura Brutscher, graduate student in the Microbiology and Immunology department, is using a metagenomic approach. She is working towards assembling the Spiroplasma genome in order to understand its metabolic contributions to the sawfly host and to potentially develop a new biocontrol method. Further inquiries on Wheat Stem Sawfly biology and pest management may be directed towards Dr. David Weaver (weaver@montana.edu). Further questions specifically on the Sawfly-associated Spiroplasma project may be directed towards Dr. Yeoman or Laura Brutscher (laura.brutscher2@gmail.com).

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