Biotechnology products

Biotechnology may range from simple grafting, through modification of processed foods and selection and breeding of resistant varieties of plants to genetic engineering. Grafting of Coffea arabica on drought and nematode-resistant roots of C. robusta is promoted in India. Processed foods may be protected from insect pests by creating dietary imbalance for insects [25]. Such imbalances would not affect human beings, as they can balance with other food intakes.

Transgenic or genetically transformed plants, which are resistant to specific pathogens or pests are developed by r-DNA technology in which genes responsible for producing delta-endotoxins from Bacillus thuringiensis (or any other source) are inserted into the plant genome. The transgenic plant produces toxic protein, which kills the pests or pathogen. Various pest-resistant cultivars have been developed for sorghum, wheat, corn and other major crops. Introgression of natural resistance and/or tolerant genes into papaya has provided almost complete protection against Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV), which was first described in Jamaica in 1989 [26],

Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) involves releasing a large population of arthropod pest/ ecto-parasites, which were sterilized by feeding chemosterilants or by exposure to radiation, in the field at an estimated ratio of 1:10 sterile individuals to one normal individual. By regular release of the sterile population over a period of a few years, complete eradication of the New World Screwworm ('Cochliomyi hominivorax), a dreaded ectoparasite of cattle, wildlife and dogs and the Mediterranean fruitfly, have been achieved in several countries [27].

Parasitoids and predators

Introduction, inundation and conservation of parasitoids and predators, arthropods or entomorphagous nematodes, have been practised fairly successfully for a long time in the biological control of the pests. Insect parasitods and predators are a major component of integrated management of crucifer pests in Asia [28]. India has over 70 projects for mass production of Trichogramma and Chrysoa at commercial insectories in the country [6]. In the Caribbean, parasitoids of cabbage moth and coffee berry borer have been introduced but their effects have not been so successful. However, the pink mealybug, which had been devastating a number of big and small trees in Eastern Caribbean in 1996 was successfully controlled by a lady bird beetle from India.

Entomorphagous nematodes offer great promise as biocontrol agents. Eighty species of nematodes and some of their strains have been tested under field and laboratory conditions on about 230 species of insects (86 Coleoptera, 80 Lepidoptera, 28 Diptera, 13 Heteroptera, 9 Hymenoptera, 6 Orthoptera, 5 Homoptera and 5 other orders). Generally, the infectivity of nematodes has been good against most hosts [29]. It has also shown great promise against citrus root weevil and sweet potato weevil in Jamaica [30].

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