Scientists from Argentina have developed a transgenic cotton resistant to the cotton boll weevil through gene silencing, minimizing the damage caused by the pest and allowing cotton plants to thrive.
Cotton boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) has plagued Argentina’s cotton industry for years, causing significant losses during cotton production. This challenge drove the researchers from the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), to develop transgenic cotton resistant to the pest. The scientists aim to decrease the damage caused by the weevil to the cotton plant to help Argentina’s cotton industry.
After nine years of research, INTA finally developed varieties resistant to the cotton boll weevil through the RNA interference strategy, wherein a small sequence of the RNA in the cotton plant was taken to block the function of a specific gene in the boll weevil to decrease its ability to cause damage. The researchers then developed an adjusted transformation system using the gene of interest to make the trait more stable. Their next step is to produce more lines of the transgenic cotton and evaluate its performance under greenhouse, in vitro, and field settings.
As explained by one of the developers, their objective is to successfully develop a transgenic cotton that expresses a sequence that generates the RNAi. When the cotton weevil eats the floral buds of the transgenic plant, the buds will hopefully interfere with the pest’s cellular metabolism. If the pest does not die from eating the buds, it will at least decrease its reproductive capacity and control the population of the pest. Both outcomes will still be beneficial to Argentina’s cotton industry.
Read the preliminary results of this on-going research in INTA.