Development of species-specific yeast RNAi attractive targeted sugar baits for spotted wing Drosophila control

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $249,928.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2026
Grant Recipient: The Trustees of Indiana University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Molly Duman Scheel
The Trustees of Indiana University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Drosophila suzukii, or spotted wing Drosophila (SWD), are invasive vinegar flies of East Asian origin that have wreaked havoc on the small fruit industry in the North Central Region (NCR).  In locations where SWD is well established, weekly insecticide applications are necessary, resulting in increased economic costs, as well as unwanted environmental impacts resulting from loss of non-targeted organisms.  With increased use of insecticides, populations that are resistant to these insecticides will inevitably emerge, and it is therefore critical that new classes of biorational pesticides and cost-effective technologies for controlling SWD are identified.  The proposed research will utilize the attractive properties of baker’s yeast, which has been designed to express an RNA interference (RNAi) pesticide that specifically targets an SWD gene, to lure and kill flies that feed on the yeast which will be delivered as a component of an attractive targeted sugar bait (ATSB).  This yeast, which permits cost-effective scaled pesticide production, can be readily shipped and stored and has significant residual activity despite the fact that the yeast is heat-killed prior to deployment.  The proposed research program will evaluate the hypothesis that stakeholder-accepted RNAi yeast ATSBs will enable species-specific SWD control through pursuit of the following aims:  1) Generation and characterization of SWD-specific RNAi yeast ATSBs, 2) Assessing stakeholder acceptance of yeast ATSBs, and 3) Field evaluation of yeast ATSBs.  These studies will promote trust and cooperation between NCR fruit farmers and scientists, thereby building a community united to combat SWD.  It is anticipated that these studies will identify a new class of stakeholder-accepted, species-specific insecticides that can be deployed as ATSBs for SWD control in the NCR and beyond.

Project objectives from proposal:

Objectives include generation, optimization, and evaluation of the acceptance of yeast RNAi-based ATSBs.  Stakeholder engagement will permit researchers to educate stakeholders and gain feedback about SWD control and yeast-ATSB technology.  This will help build trust, which may increase SWD surveillance and enhance farmers’ willingness to evaluate and potentially adopt yeast-based interventions, reducing broad-based chemical pesticide use.  The scientists will gauge interest in the technology and learn how to best optimize, deploy, and distribute it.  These interactions will promote advancement toward the long-term goals of widespread yeast ATSB deployment and SWD control in the NCR and globally. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.