U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Agricultural Research Magazine 60(4): April 2012 pp. 16-17; ISSN 0002-161X


Mention barcodes and it often brings to mind the sales tags and scanners found in supermarkets and other stores. But Agricultural Research Service scientists are using “DNA barcodes” in their search for ways to control and monitor insects that pose the greatest threats to crops as diverse as wheat, barley, and potatoes.

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 catalog the diversity of life on Earth.

At the Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, entomologist Matthew Greenstone is using DNA barcodes in an unconventional way: to identify insect predators best equipped to control the Colorado potato beetle. The Colorado potato beetle is the single most damaging insect pest of potatoes in the eastern United States. It also damages tomatoes and peppers and is known for developing resistance to any pesticides used to control it.