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Locust Genome Could Help Find Solutions to Pest’s Swarming Behavior

A team of researchers from the University of Leicester, Ghent University, and the University of Pretoria deciphered the genetic code of desert locust which could provide the basis for developing ‘intelligent pesticides’ that can act with surgical precision by tapping into locust-specific signals in the nervous system to either kill or disable their swarming behavior without harming other organisms. The crop-devastating behavior of desert locust contributes to the hunger crisis in developing countries.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a swarm of locusts can contain around 40 million insects per square kilometer, which each day can eat the same amount of food as 35,000 people.

The draft genome is composed of over 8 billion base pairs, making it the largest insect genome ever sequenced and assembled to date. A total of 18,815 protein-encoding genes were found in the genome, and 73% of which were assigned with at least one role based on similarity with characterized proteins.

“We hope that our data can facilitate the development of novel, more sustainable methods of managing swarm outbreaks. With the information in our research now available, there is a unique opportunity for innovators to create an intelligent pesticide that targets locusts, but not other insects crucial to the ecosystem, such as pollinators.”,” said Dr. Swidbert Ott, one of the authors from the University of Leicester.

For more details, read the article in F1000 research and in New Food Magazine.


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