Link to home

How molecular biology is streamlining weed biological control research

Louise Morin: CSIRO Health and Biosecurity

<div>Research into classical weed biological control has progressed significantly since the first introduction of an exotic pathogen for weed biological control in 1971. This paper will present a series of examples from Australian biological control programs that involved the release of fungal pathogens against weeds in order to illustrate the importance of molecular biology in streamlining research in this discipline. DNA-based molecular characterization of target weeds is regularly utilized to determine the weeds’ genetic structure in the introduced and native ranges to understand better the possible invasion pathways. This provides invaluable information that guides searches for suitable pathogen strains in the native range, which will be highly adapted to the weed genotypes found in the introduced range. DNA sequencing of informative genomic loci is now routinely used to elucidate the taxonomy and life cycle of potential pathogen agents discovered. Further, when several pathogen strains are introduced to a new region for weed biological control, molecular characterization enables effective monitoring of the strains’ establishment, persistence and possible evolution over time. The use of cutting-edge technologies, such as genome-wide polymorphic marker systems and next generation whole genome sequencing, in weed biological control will further enhance researchers’ ability to answer questions that are key to the future success of biological control programs.</div>