Every year between a quarter and a third of the worldwide grain harvest is lost. Much of that loss is due to insect pests. The ability to control these pests cheaply and effectively is critical for food security and the grain industry. The most common method to combat these insects is the fumigation of stored grain with phosphine gas, a cheap and effective method of control. However, poor fumigation practices can lead to phosphine resistance, a big problem as there is no good alternative to phosphine. The development of effective fumigation practices requires an understanding of the physiology of target insects and their response to phosphine.
Together these researchers have: conducted the first national survey of phosphine resistance in the world; validated affordable, sustainable, and environmentally safe pest control methods using phosphine; developed genetic tests to allow cheap and quick identification of phosphine-resistant insect populations for remediation; and discovered that phosphine-resistant insects are less likely to disperse by flight than susceptible ones, a development with implications for effective and efficient national fumigation strategies.