The Genomite Project

FACCE ERA-NET+ New generation sustainable tools to control emerging mite pests under climate change

Below is a brief summary of the Genomite project. For additional information please visit the main Genomite Project page.

The Challenge

Climate change will have serious and profound impacts on pests and diseases of agricultural crops in Europe and it is vital that new tools and management methods are developed to tackle the problems that will increasingly threaten EU food production as a result.

Spider mite outbreaks and crop damage are strongly favoured by high temperatures and drought stress caused by climate change (especially in combination) that will have a serious impact not only in southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin but also throughout Europe because of more extreme weather events including heat waves and droughts. The two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae (TSSM), is a highly polyphagous species which attacks many crops and is adapting to attack several important new crops including grape vines and corn. Tetranychus evansi (TE) is a recently arrived alien invasive pest that is spreading through Europe and attacks important solanacious crops including tomato and potato.

Phytoseiid predatory mites are the main naturally occurring predators that help regulate spider mite populations and are introduced as biocontrol agents for control of spider mites in commercial crops. They are sensitive to broad-spectrum insecticides and the increasing use of these insecticides to control other alien invasive pests, e.g. spotted wing drosophila and brown marmorated stink bug, are harming them and causing more serious outbreaks of spider mites.

Project Aims

In this project, for the first time, comprehensive state-of-the-art genomic, metabolomic and modelling methods will be used to develop the necessary tools and management methods for tackling spider mites that are increasingly serious pests of many important crops throughout the EU. This will not only be an outstanding contribution to spider mite management under climate change but crucially be an example, demonstrating how the best and most advanced methods can be applied to the vast array of other important pests and diseases that will develop because of climate change.

Teams from 7 EU countries and Canada will model the performance of each organism in plant-spider mite-predators tritrophic interaction under changing climatic (CC) conditions. This will be accompanied by determination of reciprocal transcriptional and metabolomics changes in plants (tomato and strawberry) and spider mites (TSSM and TE) upon their interactions under normal and CC scenarios. In addition, we will search for elicitors and effectors of TSSM and TE that are capable of modulating plant defences. Using Systems biology approaches, we will link performance of plants and mites with genome-wide changes in their responses. Thus, our study will not only model performance of organisms involved in tritrophic interaction, but will also model processes whose changes lead to modulated performance under CC. This comprehensive knowledge can then be used to develop new tools and methods for climate-smart pest control.