Researchers are studying neuropeptides as a possible control measure to control Asian citrus psyllids and combat citrus greening.

Asian citrus psyllids (ACPs), the insect vector that spreads citrus greening, have long been the focus of combating citrus greening. The thinking is if you can keep psyllids out of the grove, then they can’t infect new citrus trees with the bacterium that causes citrus greening. Current insecticides are expensive and haven’t been successful in eradicating psyllids from Florida citrus groves, but researchers with Cornell University’s Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and the University of Washington are looking into the use of neuropeptides, according to a Cornell news article. See the details below.

Neuropeptides and Asian Citrus Psyllids

Neuropeptides function as hormones in insects like ACPs, regulating growth, development and other biological functions. “If we could develop an insecticide that is specific for Asian citrus psyllids based on one of the insect’s own neuropeptides, then we could protect citrus trees from the insect that spreads CLas,”said BTI faculty member and USDA-ARS research molecular biologist, Michelle Heck, in the article.

Essentially, finding an insecticide that would target specific ACP hormones could target ACPs and provide better control than with traditional insecticides, and potentially do no harm to beneficial insects. The research team is at the beginning stages, identifying 122 potential neuropeptides that could be utilized. According to the article, the team is on to the next step, collaborating to identify which neuropeptide would be best to use to develop a targeted insecticide.

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