Fungal-derived technology for control of the invasive pest, Spotted Wing Drosophila

University of Greenwich

About the Project

We are inviting applications for one full-time PhD studentships who will work across the fields of microbiology, entomology, chemical analysis, and sustainable agriculture. This studentship will be a part of the Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA) Future Societies programme.

The aim of the project is to develop a novel, sustainable technology for controlling spotted wing drosophila. This will require elucidation of the fundamental biological interactions between SWD and insect pathogenic fungi.

Future Societies will require a supply of nutritious food produced through sustainable practices which balance human consumption with environmental health. This will only be achieved through development of new methodologies for controlling insect crop pests which do not rely on synthetic pesticides. In this project, the student will help develop novel technologies based around entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) for controlling the invasive horticultural pest Drosophila suzukii, known as Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).

First identified in the UK in 2012 by NIAB East Malling, SWD originated in Asia and has become a globally important pest threatening horticultural production in the UK, Europe and the US. This project will be in partnership with NIAB East Malling, with Drs Sarah Arnold and Michelle Fountain providing guidance and access to NIAB facilities.

Currently, SWD can only be controlled through labour intensive hygiene practices and insecticide spraying of fruit crops. While laboratory studies have shown that EPF can kill individual SWD, current fungal formulations have not been efficacious in field trials. This project will combine fundamental studies of fly behaviour with aspects of fungal ecology and biochemistry to understand how SWD are able to resist EPF infection, and to develop new sustainable technologies for crop pest control.

The student will identify the specific behaviours of the flies and its interactions with the fungal pathogen through a series of bioassays. They will also conduct studies to establish infectivity of the EPF and the potential to enhance efficacy through combinations with botanical extracts and adjuvants. Using liquid chromatography, the secondary metabolites of the fungi will be identified for potential novel EPF-derived technologies. Training will be provided to the student from experts in each of these fields to achieve an interdisciplinary approach and identify a new path for sustainable pest control.

The University of Greenwich is part of the nationwide Doctoral Training Alliance (DTA) Future Societies programme, a University Alliance initiative including 8 member universities which delivers a structured cohort-based approach to postgraduate research opportunities through an expert network of academics and professional staff. The programme is invested in addressing future research needs as well as enhancing the long-term career progression of doctoral researchers.

It will support solutions-driven research that tackles the world’s most pressing challenges, with projects guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Students will be based at the University of Greenwich and undertake a project within the world-leading Chemical Ecology research group at Natural Resources Institute (NRI).

The student will become a member of the Faculty of Engineering and Science (FES) and NRI postgraduate community and receive comprehensive training in not only the research area of the project but in practical innovation and entrepreneurial skills. This will include attendance at the DTA Residential Schools and access to a bespoke ‘elective programme’ hosted across the network of DTA universities.

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