Article on genetics by 2017 - 2019 UA Space Grant Intern, Emily Walla, published in UANews!

A caterpillar of the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) readies to devour a boll of cotton. (Photo: Wenxue Pan/Nanjing University)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Emily Walla is a NASA Space Grant Intern Advisor (whose first year was 2017-18 as an undergraduate research intern and is now a 2nd year advisor for incoming undergraduate interns this academic year). Emily works with her mentor, Daniel Stolte, for UA News as a science communication writer. She is an astronomy and physics Junior. 

Read Emily's article on research in genetics to promote sustainable pest control.

"A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) identifies a dominantly inherited mutation that confers resistance to engineered cotton in caterpillars of the cotton bollworm, one of the world’s most destructive crop pests. The study’s cutting-edge use of genomics and gene editing signals a new era in global efforts to promote more sustainable pest control.

Cotton, corn and soybean have been genetically engineered to produce pest-killing proteins from the widespread soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Non-toxic to people and wildlife including bees, these environmentally friendly Bt proteins have been used in sprays by organic growers for more than 50 years and in engineered Bt crops planted by millions of farmers worldwide on a cumulative total of more than two billion acres since 1996.

Entomologists at the University of Arizona, the University of Tennessee and the Nanjing Agricultural University in China collaborated in the three-part study. Their goals were to pinpoint the mutation conferring Bt resistance in bollworms, precisely edit one bollworm gene to prove this mutation causes resistance and discover how the resistance is spreading through cotton fields in China."

By Emily Walla, NASA Space Grant Science Writing Intern, University Communications Oct. 29, 2018