The goal of VII is to increase our knowledge of virus-insect interactions through multidisciplinary approaches, ranging from structural and molecular biology to ecology, to apply that knowledge in the field, and to disseminate the information through education and outreach:
- Control of pest insects and plant viruses. Herbivorous insects and insect-vectored plant viruses are of significant economic importance to agriculture both within the U.S. and worldwide. There is an urgent need for environmentally benign alternatives to the environmentally damaging classical chemical insecticides for global food security. VII will address (i) the potential for viral control of herbivorous insects, including virus discovery, investigation of the potential of known insect viruses for pest control, predictive modeling of insect and insect virus spread; (ii) management of insect-vectored plant viruses through proactive prediction of plant virus transmission, and employment of mitigating technologies.
- Protection of Pollinators. Honey bee-mediated pollination is essential for production of one-third of our diet. Viruses play a key role in the ongoing decimation of honey bees by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). VII will investigate honey bee virus molecular biology and provide insight into methods to safeguard honeybees from CCD.
- Fundamental knowledge. Advances in fundamental knowledge of insect-virus interactions will include, but not be limited to: determining the genetic basis for virus-mediated paralysis; molecular mechanisms of virus replication, gene expression and gene function; insect anti-viral immunity; determinants of plant virus transmission; mechanisms of movement of plant and insect viruses in both insects and plants; impact of viruses on plant host response to insect feeding and on plant volatiles and insect attraction.
- Impact of climate change on pest insects and plant viruses. Observe changes in insect and virus populations in the Midwest and apply existing climate change models to develop tools for predicting how species will respond at the farm, landscape, and regional scales.
- Translational Research. Advances in knowledge will result in: construction and dissemination of infectious clones of viral genomes for fundamental research and of virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) vectors for gene knock-down in insects and plants with potential application for study of gene function in plant breeding and insect control; novel approaches to reduce transmission of plant viruses; potential transgenic and biological control tools for management of aphid pests, and of bee viruses.
- Education and Outreach. Research conducted within VII will include both graduate and undergraduate student training. VII will actively disseminate knowledge via a web site that will serve as a focal point for insect-vector interaction resources, development of on-line educational videos, VII-related on-campus instruction, VII workshops, K-12 outreach, and through extension for delivery of information directly to Iowa growers.