Projects on biocide resistance in pests, weeds and vectors
Understanding adaptive evolution to herbicides in ryegrass
Intense pesticide and herbicide pressures have resulted in the evolution of resistance in multiples pests, insect vectors and weeds. Resistance is both a huge socio-economic issue limiting our capacity to control disease and sustain food production and the most obvious example of adaptive evolution, occuring within a human life-span. Since resistance is due to mutations affecting the genome, it is best investigated using genome sequencing technology. Our lab currently focuses on developing a landscape-scale understanding of herbicide resistance in rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum Gaud.), the most nocious weed in Australia and many Mediterranean regions.
Exploring the potential of gene drives to restore herbicide susceptibility
Herbicide resistance is a growing problem. As resistance spreads, herbicides lose their efficacy and struggle to control weeds. This can reduce crop productivity and can represent a costly loss for farmers. In order to make currently ineffective herbicides useful again, we need to reintroduce susceptibility.
To reintroduce susceptilibty, we need to be able to change the allele frequencies at the population scale. Simply releasing susceptible weeds will not change the population as the same problem persists, susceptible plants are selected against and resistant plants increase in frequency. By making it so that only susceptible alleles are passed on, it is possible to change the allele frequency at the population scale. This is the core concept of a gene drive.
A gene drive, a genetic element capable of self replication, is able to edit a specific allele and replace it with itself. Through this method, progeny of a gene drive individual will always inherit a copy of the gene drive, as will their progeny. After a number of generations, the gene drive may fixate.