Barcodes Help Track and Control Insects

Melissa Sandfort

Barcodes may bring to mind the sales tags and scanners found in supermarkets and other stores. But USDA scientists are using “DNA barcodes” to monitor insects that damage crops as diverse as wheat, barley and potatoes, and to make pest management decisions.

In DNA barcoding, scientists sequence a designated part of an organism’s genome and produce a barcode from it for a systematic comparison with the sequenced DNA of other closely related species. DNA barcodes are being developed on a wide range of plants and animals as part of a global effort to catalogue the diversity of life on Earth.

DNA barcodes are now being used in an unconventional way: to identify insect predators best equipped to control the Colorado potato beetle, which is the single most damaging insect pest of potatoes in the Eastern United States.

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Industry News, USDA