Climate Change, Herbicide Resistance, and Pest Management

by | Jan 21, 2019

Pest Management Science: on climate change, resistance, the challenges and opportunities for RNA interference in pest management, and more.

The efficacy of future pest management is confronted by a number of issues. Projected environmental variations of climate change could limit how effective current pesticides are. Additionally, increasing resistance to current control methods poses a challenge to greater understand resistance mechanisms in order to adapt our approach. Promising precision techniques such as RNA interference provide opportunities for pest control and improved understanding of resistance mechanisms, if factors increasing inefficiency can be resolved.

Changing environmental conditions can cause reduced pesticide sensitivity. This conditional resistance is exacerbated by increased temperatures and levels of CO2. As such, Matzrafi predicts that the abundance of pests with reduced pesticide sensitivity due to conditional resistance will increase dramatically under the projected climate change. In response, he considers that “using adjuvants to improve pesticide translocation or reduce pesticide metabolism [and] new technologies, such as using nanoparticles, may result in higher pesticide functionality under the projected climate change.” This makes the case for greater understanding of the mechanisms of conditional resistance, to appropriately prepare our future pest management approaches for different environmental conditions.

Resistance to herbicides is a challenge for the future of agriculture. Simberloff and Leppanen focus on how plant somatic mutations can confer such resistance. A few examples of resistance to insects and herbicides in plants, due to somatic mutations, are considered. The scarcity of these examples highlights potential avenues for research on the topic and opportunities to exploit the apparent role in insect resistance. The benefits could be wide-ranging, as it is noted that “new methods for manipulating genomes (e.g., gene‐editing), plus existing examples of somatic mutation‐associated resistance, suggest that such mutations might be useful in silviculture, agriculture, and horticulture”.

RNA interference (RNAi) is a gene-silencing mechanism. It inhibits gene expression and so it is being used to manage viruses and insects. Cooper et al. highlight that although this method is useful, “widespread implementation of RNAi‐based pest management strategies is currently hindered by inefficient and highly variable results, when different insect species, strains, developmental stages, tissues, and genes are targeted”. By reviewing current understandings of the factors limiting RNAi inefficiency and recent advances, including double‐stranded RNA (dsRNA) stability in physiological tissues, this work highlights the challenges for optimization of RNAi mechanisms in insects.

You can read more interesting research like this in Pest Management Science.

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