University of Illinois researchers, including INHS Behavioral Entomologist Dr. Joseph Spencer, found that differences in the microbial community in the gut of western corn rootworms (WCR) can change their ability to survive crop rotation. Crop rotation, switching between corn and soybeans is used as a method to control WCR as soybean leaves are typically toxic to WCR. Researchers have found that some WCR are able to survive long enough on soybeans to reproduce. This study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found "significant and consistent differences in the relative abundance of various types of bacteria in the guts of rotation-resistant and nonresistant rootworms. These differences corresponded to differing activity levels of digestive enzymes in their guts and to their ability to tolerate soybean plant defenses."
Dr. Spencer is quoted as saying, "It's not just the rootworm that we have to worry about. There's really this whole conspiracy between the rootworm and its co-conspirators in the gut that can respond fairly quickly, relatively speaking, to the assaults that they face."
Read the full article in the Early Edition section of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.