Wednesday, March 6, 2013


PestBOL web resource
Today a new DNA Barcoding web resource went live. The Plant Pest Barcoding site provides summary information on DNA Barcode coverage for invertebrate pests of significance to global plant production. It is intended for use by the plant protection community, including regulators, researchers, and growers. By highlighting gaps in coverage, it also supports coordinated efforts to further the development of DNA Barcode reference libraries for pest arthropods.

The majority of described species are invertebrates, approximately 1 million in all, with hundreds of thousands more awaiting description. As a result of their sheer numbers, varied life-stages and diverse life-history strategies it can be extremely challenging to identify invertebrates to species. Unfortunately, this hinders our ability to cope with invertebrate pests at all management levels, from growers to governments. DNA barcoding critically extends our ability to detect pests but its application is predicated on the existence of a barcode reference sequence library derived from expert-identified reference specimens held in accessible museum collections.

What I find worth mentioning is the fact that that to a large extend this resource is the result of the work of one person, Andrew Frewin, a PhD student at Bob Hanner's lab at the University of Guelph. He gathered information on species from various sources including national and international pest lists, and merged both regulated and non-regulated pest species into a global checklist. The single criteria for inclusion of a pest species in this list was the occurrence of that pest on a national or international pest list, or in an academic or industry report

Take home message is that it just takes the dedicated effort of less than a handful of people to build a resource that will likely have a very big impact due to it's societal relevance. 

The other good news is that based on the current iteration of the list (and it will be updated over time) 358 agricultural pest species have a DNA Barcode. That is 40% of the list. In my opinion that is a huge step forward and opens the door to modernization of pest detection and pest control.

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