New generation sustainable tools to control emerging mite pests under climate change


Climate change (CC) will have serious and profound impacts on pests and diseases of agricultural crops in Europe and it is vital that new tools and management methods are developed to tackle the problems that will increasingly threaten EU food production as a result.

  • In this project, for the first time, comprehensive state-of-the-art genomic, metabolomic and modelling methods will be used to develop the necessary tools and management methods for tackling spider mites that are increasingly serious pests of many important crops throughout the EU.
  • This will not only be an outstanding contribution to spider mite management under climate change but crucially be an example, demonstrating how the best and most advanced modelling and molecular methods can be applied to the vast array of other important pests and diseases that will develop because of climate change.
  • Spider mite outbreaks and crop damage are strongly favoured by high temperatures and drought stress caused by (CC) (especially in combination) that will have serious impacts not only in southern Europe, but throughout the continent because of more extreme and variable weather events including heat waves and droughts. The two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae (TSSM), is a highly polyphagous species which attacks many crops and is adapting to attack several important new crops including grape vines and corn. Tetranychus evansi (TE) is a recently arrived alien invasive pest that is spreading through Europe and attacks important solanacious crops including tomato and potato.
  • Phytoseiid predatory mites are the main natural predators that regulate spider mite populations and are introduced as biocontrol agents in crops. They are harmed by broad-spectrum insecticides and the increasing use of these to control other alien invasive pests, e.g. spotted wing Drosophila and brown marmorated stink bug, lead to more serious outbreaks of spider mites.
  • In this project, teams from 7 EU countries and Canada will model the tritrophic interactions between crops, populations of spider mite pests and their predators under CC. Crucially, this will be accompanied by determination and modelling of the reciprocal transcriptional and metabolomic changes in the crop and the pest and their interactions under CC.
  • This holistic study will be done on a model annual and a model perennial crop plant (tomato and strawberry) and with two contrasting spider mite species, TSSM and TE. In addition, we will search for elicitors and effectors of TSSM and TE that are capable of modulating plant defences. Using Systems biology approaches, we will link the performance of plants and mites with genome-wide changes in their responses.
  • This comprehensive knowledge will be an invaluable resource for new tools and methods for climate-smart pest control including markers for breeding resistant varieties, predicting pest outbreaks and biocontrol and metabolites with that can be used as biopesticides.