May 6, 2015
UGA entomologist researching thrips to control tomato spotted wilt virus

A University of Georgia entomologist is searching for a way to control tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) by studying thrips — the insect that carries the disease.

Thrips pass TSWV to crops, like peanuts and vegetables, when they feed on them. The virus reproduces and spreads throughout entire fields. It can dwarf plants and cause crop yields to be low or nonexistent.

UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences entomologist Rajagopalbabu Srinivasan is studying how the virus affects thrips in an effort to find new ways to control the virus.

Through transcriptomics, Srinivasan is trying to better understand the interaction between thrips and TSWV on a molecular level. He aims to understand how the virus changes the insect.

Transcriptomics is a technique aimed at studying gene transcripts expressed in an organism at a given point in time, Srinivasan said. He likens this research to taking a snapshot of the insect's genetic and molecular changes caused by the virus. This allows Srinivasan to see what is happening to the organism in the hopes of identifying targets for non-traditional pest management strategies.

“We are still in the beginning stages of this research, but every year we find something new,” he said. “It will take many more years before we can identify specific targets and exploit them for management.”

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