RNA interference technology (RNAi) also referred to as gene silencing, has truly taken the agricultural market by storm. As agricultural organizations across the world quickly look to invest in RNAi, it is important to understand the scope of these developments and how they will be able to address agricultural challenges today and tomorrow. The spider mites’ resilience and the massive impact that the species has had on both field and greenhouse crops across the world has shed light on the need to test for geneticists and biologists.
Western University in London, Ont. are studying a new, ground-breaking control technique for agricultural pests. In a project called Genomics in Agricultural Pest Management, scientists from the United States, Spain, France, and Belgium will come together to research RNAi and its role in killing spider mites and/or slowing their population growth. Using genetic manipulations, the scientists hope to develop a method to counter the enormous effects of spider mite infestations in harvests across the globe.
Vlad Zhurov, Genomics in Agricultural Pest Management team member and research associate in Western’s biology department, has made a number of statements regarding RNAi and the potential of its role in spider mite treatment. Zhurov stated, “by introduction of the double stranded (RNA) molecules into the organism (spider mite), which actually match the sequence of the gene that this organism possesses, you can knock down the native organism gene”.
The research team indicates that 100 percent eradication is not the goal of RNAi use, but rather to create sick spider mites that are unable to form new colonies. If a spider mite is too sickly to develop a colony in the specific location in which they have arrived, killing the spider mites will become unnecessary. As the RNAi research continues to develop, it will be interesting to see how scientific advancements can propel the agricultural market forward.