In a huge step forward for pest management in the vegetable industry, Australian and Chinese scientists have together sequenced the genome of the Diamondback moth, a major pest of Brassica vegetables and canola in Australia.

The Diamondback moth, or Plutella xylostella, feasts on the leaves of vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower and causes an estimated $4-5 billion worth of damage worldwide annually, making it one of the most destructive pests of economically significant food crops on the planet.

“The Diamondback moth has developed resistance to many traditional crop protectants, but now that its genome has been sequenced, researchers will be able to pinpoint how the pest has adapted to survive past control methods, and the best ways of successfully targeting it in the future,” said AUSVEG Spokesperson, Hugh Gurney.

AUSVEG is the national Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.

“This pest has been of concern to Australian agriculture for a number of years and a great amount of investment has been made by the vegetable industry, with matching funds from the Australian Government administered through Horticulture Australia Limited, into Research and Development (R&D) to combat the destructive Diamondback moth,” said Gurney.

The new research, published this week in Nature Genetics, highlights the moth’s ability to rapidly respond to environmental variation and genetic damage. Researchers have also discovered that the moth possesses a substantially large set of genes linked to insecticide resistance, in comparison to other related species.

“Now that we possess the genetic equivalent of an instruction manual for this rampant pest, industry can begin to target the Diamondback moth's unrelenting resistance to growers’ pest control practices through focussed R&D,” said Gurney.

The findings come a year after an Australian research team determined the pesticidal properties of wasp venom on the moth, with the potential for commercialisation in the near future.

“The fact that Australian researchers are continually breaking new ground with R&D signifies that the vegetable levy system is returning real benefits to Australian vegetable growers,” said Gurney.