Investigating nematode-bacteria interactions to develop better biopesticides

Insect pests abound in the world of agriculture, and every year potentially harmful pesticides are used to combat them. Dr. Zihua Zhou wants to change that. Through learning to identify the presence of deadly nematode-bacteria infestations in insects, Dr. Zhou’s research aims to aid the fight in developing better biopesticides. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research

The infestation of nematode-bacteria symbiont (e.g. Steinernema carpocapsae and Xenorhabdus nematophila) could kill insect host (e.g. Bactrocera dorsalis) very effectively, normally within 24 hours. The septicemia of insect hemolymph caused by gram negative bacteria is an important infestation mechanism of nematode-bacteria symbiont. The product of metabolism released by X. nematophila is highly noxious to insect hosts. We want to explore the infestation biomarker of nematode-bacteria symbiont by taking Bactrocera dorsalis as a research model.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

The entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) have been used in classical, conservational and augmentative biological control programs. Steinernema carpocapsae is a famous EPN which has been widely used in IPM. In fact,  S. carpocapsae could not finish the host infestation independently. The infestation of nematode-bacteria symbiont (e.g. Steinernema carpocapsae and Xenorhabdus nematophila) could kill insect host (e.g. Bactrocera dorsalis) very effectively, normally within 24 hours. Therefore, we assumed there should be an effective bioactive substance released by nematode-bacteria symbiont. The key biomarker released by nematode-bacteria symbiont is the key compound of insect death. The determination of infestation biomarkers would have potential application for development of novel biopesticides.

The determination of infestation biomarkers would have potential application for development of novel biopesticides.

Why did you choose this area of research?

The applications of nematode-bacteria symbiont are potential biocontrol technology for managing agricultural pests. The EPN are considered beneficial organisms to humans as they can be used as control agents for pests of agriculture, forestry or health importance. In order to manage agricultural pests with a green method, I want to explore the infestation biomarker of nematode-bacteria symbiont.

The EPN are considered beneficial organisms to humans as they can be used as control agents for pests of agriculture, forestry or health importance.

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone?

The Grants4Ag program is great because these projects are aiming sustainable, effective, and ecological strategies. I believe that humans will be more comfortable with biodiversity. This Grants4Ag project provides an avenue to sustainable agriculture, which would be helpful to improve the environment, especially in developing areas.