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Mutated STD could stop corn earworm pest

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What is in this article?:Mutated STD could stop corn earworm pest

  • Alonna Wright works with a genetically selected mutant form of a nudivirus. The nudivirus causes a sexually transmitted disease only found in the corn earworm.
  • While Bt corn controls many insect pests, the corn earworm is resistant.

Alonna Wright is an agricultural biotechnology student in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Katie Pratt, UK Agricultural Communications

Alonna Wright works with a genetically selected mutant form of a nudivirus. The nudivirus causes a sexually transmitted disease only found in the corn earworm.

In nature, one-third of virus infection cases results in insect sterility. The genetically selected virus form causes an insect STD resulting in 100 percent sterility, which could give a boost to the naturally occurring virus to make it more effective.

“It’s a very labor intensive process, so when we finally got this mutant after months and months of screening, we were just so excited,” said Wright, an agricultural biotechnology student in University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We knew this project was viable. We knew this could have an impact on millions of people and many crops. It was elating. I couldn’t be happier.”

The corn earworm causes an estimated $2 billion in damage and cost of control each year. Two closely related insects in South America and Asia are even more destructive.

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