Research on the topic of insecticide resistance has provided invaluable insights into the origin and nature of adaptations, and these are proving to have broad significance for understanding genetic responses to change in the environment. In many respects the continuing battle against resistance is as good an example of coevolution as any and is a clear illustration of how such processes generate biological diversity. In this instance, however, the diversity being created is undesirable from a human standpoint and, because of the threat posed to susceptible genotypes, probably temporary.
It is important to note that the pest management problems posed by the evolution of resistance are not unique to control strategies that use conventional insecticides. The utilization of host plant resistance is a case in point. Resistance to insects in crop plants is selected by screening for genes that provide resistance in the laboratory or in field plots, then crossing those genes into crop strains with other desirable characteristics. At least six major genes for resistance to the Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor) have been successively bred into wheat over the past two decades. In each instance, the introductions of new resistant mutations in the plant were rendered useless by the evolution of corresponding protective adaptations in the fly. Another example of such coevolution comes from the use of semiochemical tools for pest control. In many parts of Asia, a synthetic pheromone is used to disrupt mating in the tea tortrix moth (Adoxophyes honmai), the larvae of which can cause severe damage in tea plantations. Researchers in Japan have recently reported the evolution of a new biotype of this species that exhibits reduced sensitivity to the pheromone. Such events make it clear that regardless of whether the major strategies for pest management continue to use conventional chemicals, the "arms race" between insect evolution and human ingenuity will continue to present major challenges.
See Also the Following Articles
Agricultural Entomology • Biotechnology and Insects • Genetically Modified Plants • Genetic Variation
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