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Genetic Control of Pests


The Development of Biotechnology of the Environmentally Friendly Genetic Technique of Codling Moth Control

Tech Area / Field

  • AGR-OTH/Other/Agriculture
  • BIO-CGM/Cytology, Genetics and Molecular Biology/Biotechnology
  • AGR-PPR/Plant Protection/Agriculture

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Institute of Zoology, Armenia, Yerevan


  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada / Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Canada, BC, Summerland\nCornell University, USA, NY, Ithaca

Project summary

The Codling Moth, Cydia pomonella L. ( Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) is a cosmopolitan and a major insect pest of deciduous tree fruit throughout the world. Applle is the preferred host of the codling moth.This is the reason that the codling moth occurs where apples are grown throughout the temperate regions of the word. It has a remarkable ability to adapt to a wide range of climatic conditions.

The most important codling moth hosts are apple and pear, but it can also be a key pest in quince, walnut, apricot, plum, peach, nectarine, and even other Prunus species (like sweet cherry and almonds).

High quality standards of modern fruit production do not tolerate more than 1-2% of damaged apples or pear. The potential for crop loss to the codling moth makes it the most important pest of pome fruits. When uncontrolled, the codling moth is capable of annually destroying 80% or more of an apple crop and 40-60% of a pear crop. Codling moth is one of the most dangerous pests of orchards (apple, apricot, pear, walnut etc.) of Armenia which inflict huge damage to the economy.

Different methods of control have been used against the codling moth. Chemical control has been the most extended method for a long time. Codling moth larvae damage fruit directly making it a pest that can be tolerated at only very low levels. For seven decades, chemical measures have been the mainstay of codling moth control, but insecticide use is beginning to fail on a worldwide scale due to evolution of pesticide-resistant strains.

Other methods are the use of mechanical control with trap bands, cultural control (early varieties, resistant varieties), biotechnical control (releases of sterile males, mating disruption with pheromones, mass trapping with pheromones), along with biological control with natural enemies.

Environmentally benign biological controls operating alone can not provide sufficient suppression of codling moth to protect fruit.Even chemical control is difficult because of the short time young larvae are exposed and the small amount of feeding done before entering the fruit. This behavior makes codling moth control with many alternative insecticides which act as stomach poisons, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) products or viruses very difficult. Replacing conventional control tactics (use of neuroactive insecticides, primarily organophosphates) with safer and less disruptive controls requires a combination of tactics. The most promising tactics include mating disruption, insect growth regulators, a granulosis virus, biological controls, sterile insect release (genetic), and cultural practices, most likely used in various combinations.

Twenty years of research by M.D. Proverbs and colleagues (Canada) established the techniques needed for rearing, sterilizing, and releasing codling moths as a control method for this pest. Although technically feasible in certain situations, sterile insect release has several limitations that govern success including geographic isolation of treated areas, mass rearing of large numbers of moths, regional coordination, the mandatory nature of treatment efforts, and high start-up costs for sterile insect production and release. Sterile insect release costs, estimated from a pilot project, were more than twice that of chemical sprays to control codling moth. Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that a program could be economical if only the minimum required number of moths was released, the target eradication area treated in steps, and reinfestation prevented.

In this regard the development of economical methods of pest control, harmless to the environment, is rather necessary. Earlier we had developed a new modification of the genetic method of codling moth based on the phenomenon of inherited sterility.This modification is very simple and uses the introduction of inherited–defective (ID) diapausing larvae into the pest's natural population to synchronize the development of introduced and natural insects . We conducted a field investigation and the results obtained were hopeful.

The purpose of the present project is the development of biotechnology of environmentally friendly genetic method for the control of codling moth in Armenia using inherited sterility.

The procedure is the independent development of separate parts of the biotechnology of the manufacture and release of the ID biomaterial in a natural population: mass breeding of insects (biofactory), developing technology for partial sterilization and its introduction.

We propose to develop a programme that uses codling moth inherited sterility. This modified genetic control method has a greater chance of achieving success because insects are treated with lower doses of radiation and, as such, are more competitive than fully sterile moths.

The frequency of release of the ID biomaterial into the natural population decreases from 50-60 times to 1-2 times in a vegetative season, and, consequently, the number of total quantity of insects also decreases. There is no danger of damage to the ID biomaterial because of adverse conditions.

In the development of this technology it is possible to use the intellectual capabilities of the engineers and technicians, who have worked in the field of manufacture of arms and ammunition, the knowledge of which is necessary for the rational use of radiating apparatus, for the peaceful purpose of organization of harmless methods of pest control .

The foreign colleagues (USA) will participate in the development of this technology. They are experts in this area and are interested in successful realization of such works in Armenia.

The research we propose to conduct will result in the development and application of an area-wide, environmentally friendly programme to suppress the key pest of pomme fruit production in Armenia.

By using this genetic control method against the key pest of pomme fruit, Armenia will significantly reduce its reliance on pesticides, which are expensive commodities to import. This programme will allow natural enemies to control secondary pests in the orchards, will reduce risks to the environment and to orchard workers and their families, and will allow fruit harvested from orchards to be free of pesticidal residues and, thus healthier for the consumer. Also, this programme in Armenia could serve as a model for other countries.


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