Behavioral Research Blog

High-throughput screening of plant lines for resistance to pest insects

Posted by Olga Krips on Sep 16, 2016

One of the great things about working for Noldus IT is its involvement in scientific research projects. Because the tools that we offer are used in scientific research, it is logical that we also participate in projects for which such tools are developed.

High-throughput screening of plant lines for resistance to pest insects

I was personally involved in one of these projects, EthoGenomics. Since its primary research area, entomology (for lay people, “the scientific study of insects”), matches my own scientific background, I had a weak spot for this project. The two PhD students involved, Karen Kloth and Manus Thoen, recently defended their excellent theses and did so with great success.

Plant resistance to insects

The EthoGenomics project focused on screening for host plant resistance to insect pest species. Traditionally, plant lines are screened with end-point measurements, such as counting the number of insects on the plants, or assessing insect damage some weeks after infestation. However, this is very labor intensive, it requires space in the order of magnitude of a greenhouse, and the results give no insight in the background of the resistance. This makes it hard to locate resistance genes that could be used to create new plant lines with insect resistance.

Video tracking for high throughput

Video tracking provides the possibility to scale up the screening method largely. However, one needs to have a parameter that is a proxy for resistance and can also be measured automatically with video tracking. Karen searched for such a parameter for aphids and Manus did the same for thrips. And both were successful. Karen found that the number of long probes on leaf discs is a good measure for host plant resistance to aphids. These long probes can be measured automatically with video tracking by determining the time the aphids are not moving on the leaf discs. Read more about it in this blog. Meanwhile, Manus developed a high-throughput two-choice assay in which plant lines can be screened automatically with video tracking for resistance to thrips. In both cases, almost 100 plant lines can be screened simultaneously in a relatively short time and in a benchtop area of about 1 m2.

Proud

We are extremely proud that the project has been so successful and has resulted in high quality scientific papers. In the follow-up project, we are involved to further develop the methods and test them on commercial vegetables and ornamentals. We will keep you informed.

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Topics: EthoVision XT, Video tracking, insect

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