One of the pests, the cotton bollworm, is widespread in Africa, Asia and Europe and causes damage to over 100 crops, including corn, cotton, tomato and soybean.
The damage and controlling the pest costs billions of dollars a year.
It is extremely mobile and has developed resistance to all pesticides used against it.
The other pest, the corn earworm, is a native of the Americas and has comparatively limited resistance and host range.
However, the combination of the two, in a novel hybrid with unlimited geographical boundaries is cause for major concern.
The CSIRO researchers in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA provides clear evidence of the hybridisation of the two moths in Brazil.
“A hybrid such as this could go completely undetected should it invade another country. It is critical that we look beyond our own backyard to help fortify Australia’s defense and response to biosecurity threats,” Research Director leading CSIRO’s Biosecurity Risk Evaluation and Preparedness Program Dr Paul De Barro said.
“As Australia’s national science agency, we are constantly looking for new ways to protect the nation and technology like genome sequencing, is helping to tip the scales in our favour.”
While a combination of insecticides currently controls these pests well in Australia, it is important to study the pests themselves for sustainable long-term management world-wide.
The scientists confirmed that among the group of caterpillars studied, every individual was a hybrid.
“No two hybrids were the same suggesting a ‘hybrid swarm’ where multiple versions of different hybrids can be present within one population,” fellow CSIRO Scientist Dr Tom Walsh said.
The bollworm, commonly found in Australia, attacks more crops and develops much more resistance to pesticides than the earworm.
A concerning finding among the Brazilian hybrids was that one was 51 per cent earworm but included a known resistance gene from the bollworm.
Lead author of the paper Dr Craig Anderson, a former CSIRO scientist now based at The University of Edinburgh, believes the hybrid study has wide-ranging implications for the agricultural community across the Americas.
“On top of the impact already felt in South America, recent estimates that 65 per cent of the USA’s agricultural output is at risk of being affected by the bollworm demonstrates that this work has the potential to instigate changes to research priorities that will have direct ramifications for the people of America, through the food on their tables and the clothes on their backs,” Dr Anderson said.
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The Latest on: Mega-pest
Mega cotton bollworm threatens global crops
on April 16, 2018 at 7:06 am
The two major agricultural pests have been found to have combined to produce what researchers are calling a "mega-pest" that are likely to be highly resistant to pesticides. The results of the research were published in the 'Proceedings of the National ... […]
“Mega-pest” hybrid discovered by scientists
on April 11, 2018 at 8:22 pm
The scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) said the new hybrid is a combination of the cotton bollworm and the corn earworm. The cotton bollworm is widespread in Africa, Asia and Europe and causes damage to ... […]
Hybridization Between Two Major Crop Pests Creates A "Mega-Pest" In Brazil
on April 9, 2018 at 10:48 am
Even though the cotton bollworm and the corn earworm are some of the world’s most significant pests, you’ve probably never heard of them. These two species of moths cause hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage every single year, and it ... […]
Two major crop scourges are hybridizing to produce a new mega-pest
on April 8, 2018 at 7:28 pm
Australian scientists have found evidence that two of the world's most damaging pests have hybridized to create a dangerous mega-pest with pesticide-resistant genes. The new hybrid has presently only been identified in Brazil but the researchers warn that ... […]
Hybrid swarm in global mega-pest
on April 7, 2018 at 5:52 pm
Scientists have confirmed the hybridization of two of the world's major pest species, into a new and improved mega-pest. Australian scientists have confirmed the hybridisation of two of the world's major pest species, into a new and improved mega-pest. […]
Hybrid 'mega-pest' could threaten crops across the globe, researchers warn
on April 6, 2018 at 11:43 am
April 6 (UPI) --Two the planet's most damaging crop pests have combined, or hybridized, to form a new "mega-pest." The new threat is a product of a marriage between the cotton bollworm and corn earworm. The cotton bollworm is common throughout Africa, Asia ... […]
Scientists discover hybrid swarm in global mega-pest
on April 6, 2018 at 7:32 am
Globalisation and increased movement between countries and continents means movement of agricultural pests is becoming more common. Global trade means global pests. Credit: CSIRO CSIRO scientists have confirmed the hybridisation of two of the world's major ... […]
Two very hungry caterpillars have created a hybrid mega-pest that threatens global food crops
on April 6, 2018 at 3:30 am
Two of the world's hungriest caterpillars have created a militant mega-pest capable of stripping billions of dollars a year from the food and fibre industries, Australian scientists have confirmed. CSIRO scientists use mapped genomes to confirm existence ... […]
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