The cabbage moth (Plutella xylostella) is considered to be the main insect pest of cruciferous vegetables worldwide, crops targeted include cabbages, broccoli, cauliflowers, canola and mustard. In 2012, it was estimated to cost the world economy US$4-5 billion annually through production costs and losses. Having been the first insect reported to be resistant to DDT and subsequently (Bt), P. xylostella has developed resistance to almost every insecticide applied in the field. The current trend is to develop and implement insecticide resistance management (IRM) programs to conserve efficacy of viable insecticides. Due to control failures and pressure to reduce insecticide use in agriculture, alternative approaches are sought.

Oxitec’s insect technology offers an alternative pest management approach which can complement existing methods. It involves releasing genetically engineered, ‘self-limiting’ males of a given pest insect to mate with wild females and pass on a self-limiting genetic trait which prevents survival of their offspring. Releases of self-limiting insects can eliminate pest populations that are inaccessible to traditional control methods, reducing the requirement for insecticides and any associated toxic residues in the environment. In addition, only the target pest insect species is directly affected, leaving beneficial insects unaffected.

Recent results communicated by the company have shown the potential to develop this technology on the targeted pest on cabbage crops.

 

cabbage moth
Damages caused by the cabbage moth larvae (middle) on a cabbage crop (left) and adult stage of the cabbage moth (middle).