Research Team Members
Dr. Joseph Spencer (PI) (Entomologist, Illinois Natural History Survey/PRI, UIUC)
Dr. Hanafy Fouly (Plant Pathologist, Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, UIUC)
Dr. Irfan S. Ahmad (Research Faculty, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, UIUC)
Dr. G. Logan Liu (Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering, UIUC)
Corn rootworms (CRW) are widely distributed across 50 million acres of US farmland used for corn production. The most significant CRW pest of corn is the western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera, WCR). Current CRW management methods include one or a combination of the following; crop rotation, use of soil- or foliar-applied insecticides to reduce populations of larvae and adults and/or use of different insecticidal Bt-corn hybrids.
The extensive use of pesticides has often resulted in the development of costly pesticide resistance in insect pests, plant pathogens, and weeds. Pest resistance annually adds $1.5 billion to annual US pesticide costs. Delaying the development of insecticide resistance in the WCR would help manage this insect which is already resistant to crop rotation, multiple toxins expressed in Bt corn hybrids as well as numerous insecticides. Development of novel formulations that combine controlled-release of insecticides and rotation of active ingredients would be valuable in resistance management for WCR and other pests. Our experiments will focus on the development and testing of liposomes as an innovative approach to sustainable CRW management.
Liposomes are artificially-constructed spherical structures with small and controllable diameters. The compartments within the tiny Individual liposomes can be used to encapsulate and store various cargoes (e.g. proteins, DNA and various drug molecules) that are released in a controlled fashion. Liposomes offer an easy, low cost method to produce solutions of insecticides as well as dry forms (granular) that are easy to spread using existing farm machinery and equipment. Liposome-formulated insecticides are ideal for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs where the regulated release of insecticide molecules will lessen the risks of resistance to commonly used insecticides.
1) Develop and use liposomes as new carriers for slow or delayed release formulations of commercially available insecticides; and 2) Evaluate insecticide-liposome complexes for management of CRW in the greenhouse and small field trials.
The liposomes we create will slow the release of insecticides, prolonging the period when lethal concentrations are present in the soil. This will protect corn roots from larval injury longer than roots treated with un-encapsulated insecticide. Our goal is the development of new, environmentally safe formulations of insecticides useful for CRW management.
Corn plant being treated with liposome encapsulated soil insecticide.
Dr. Hanafy Fouly with the treated plants.
Liposome-treated plants in the incubator after they were inoculated with newly-emerged western corn rootworm larvae.