Water & Climate

Victorian CO2 bug research on the world stage

Victorian research on the effects of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels on pest insects will be revealed at the International Congress of Entomology in America.

The congress will bring together the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline.

Horsham-based Agriculture Victoria Scientist Dr Piotr Trebicki is set to present Agriculture Victoria’s and Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) latest research titled: Future climate and its effects on insect vectors and spread of plant diseases.

Dr Trebicki said the research is highly important on the global scale and has a particular focus on the effects of climate change on insect pests, wheat plant viruses, and the future of Australia’s food security.

“The research is highly important as increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere will have worldwide consequences, affecting insect pests’ population dynamics, disease severity and  food production and security,” he said.

The research investigates how elevated CO2 effects interactions between wheat, Barley yellow dwarf virus and the major virus vector and wheat pest cherry-oat aphid. It also examines aphid life history, feeding behaviour, physiology and plant biochemistry.

“Concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased significantly since the beginning of the industrial revolution and is projected to double its current level by the end of this century,” Dr Trebicki said.

“To sustain or increase current food production levels, understanding how pests and diseases of many economically important crops will respond to future climate driven by increasing CO2 is imperative in order to provide the industry with effective control strategies.”

Dr Trebicki’s team predicts aphid populations on non-infected plants will reduce in the future and no change or increased aphid populations on virus-infected plants and subsequent virus spread.

The findings underscore the complexity of interactions among plants, insects and viruses under future climate with implications for plant disease epidemiology and crop production.

While in America, Dr Trebicki will also travel to Michigan to meet with Michigan State University faculty members to discuss his current project on the effects of future climate on insect, plant and virus interactions, and on the recent Russian wheat aphid incursion in Australia.

The International Congress of Entomology (ICE) is being held in Orlando, Florida, from September 25-30 2016.

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