Public Release:  Spotlight on important agricultural pests

Researchers from around the world will gather at UC Riverside, June 22-25, to attend International Hemipteran-Plant Interactions Symposium

University of California - Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Hemipteran insects include many of the world's most important economically damaging pests such as aphids, whiteflies, psyllids, leafhoppers, and thrips. Next week, nearly 150 scientists from 18 states within the United States and 24 other countries will gather at the University of California, Riverside to discuss these global pests.

The campus is hosting the 2nd International Hemipteran-Plant Interactions Symposium, June 22-25, 2014. The symposium will bring together scientists, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the fields of entomology, plant biology and plant pathology from all continents of the world, except Antarctica.

A full agenda of the symposium can be found here. Registration is closed; reporters may cover the symposium at no cost. Talks, poster sessions and sponsor/exhibit displays will take place in the Highlander Union Building, Room 302. The symposium will begin at 6 p.m., Sunday, June 22, with a reception in the Botanic Gardens.

Among the many topics to be discussed are feeding by aphids; Asian citrus psyllid-host interactions; how insects exploit sugar-rich phloem sap; the role of symbionts in sap-feeding insects; the transmission of microbes by the glassy-winged sharpshooter; and the transmission of viruses by these insect vectors.

"We have a stellar line-up of plenary speakers from the disciplines of entomology, plant biology and plant pathology, and 23 oral and 74 poster presentations from participants," said Linda Walling, a professor of genetics in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences and an organizer of the symposium. "Understanding how hempiterans and plants interact is crucial because protecting food crops and improving agricultural productivity in sustainable ways have become key issues internationally, given the world's increasing human population and the challenges of global climate change."

The symposium is expected to facilitate an exchange of ideas and foster collaborations among entomologists with expertise on hemipteran insects and their endosymbionts (the bacteria that reside within insects); plant biologists and physiologists with expertise on plant immunity to hemipterans; and plant pathologists with expertise on transmission of plant pathogens by hemipterans.

Hemipteran insects' feeding directly damages plant cells, causing cell death. The great majority of plant viruses are transmitted exclusively by hemipteran insects. In California, the Asian citrus psyllid has received enormous attention due to the transmission of the bacterial pathogen that causes citrus greening disease or Huanglongbing. Additionally, aphids, whiteflies, planthoppers, and thrips continue to devastate California's agricultural and horticultural crops.

"Hemipteran insects are some of the world's most important agricultural pests, and are challenging to control as they develop resistance to pesticides rapidly," said Isgouhi Kaloshian, a professor of nematology and an organizer of the symposium. "For this reason, both classical--insecticide and resistance genes--and cutting edge transgenic technologies are being pursued to control these devastating pests."

Two satellite workshops affiliated with the symposium will be offered:

  • A pre-symposium Electrical Penetration Graph (EPG) Workshop (June 19-21, 2014). EPGs measure insect feeding behaviors.
  • A post-symposium workshop (June 26, 2014). Invited speakers will discuss state of the art "big science" strategies and approaches to plant-insect interactions.

For location of the workshops, please see the agenda.

The symposium is being sponsored by UCR's Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, the Department of Entomology; and the Department of Nematology. Other sponsors are the US Department of Agriculture, the Citrus Research Board, Dupont and the U.S.-Israel Binational Agricultural and Research Development Fund. Besides Walling and Kaloshian, organizers of the symposium include: Greg Walker and James Ng from UCR; Michelle Cilia from the Boyce Thompson Institute, N.Y.; and Murad Ghanim from the ARO-Volcani Center, Israel.

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The University of California, Riverside (http://www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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