Destructive pea weevils on the way out

October 24, 2012, University of Western Australia
Destructive pea weevils on the way out

(—Farmers around the world are a step closer to eliminating the chemical spraying of field peas for the destructive pea weevil, thanks to research by agricultural scientists from The University of Western Australia.

The weevils, which affect crops grown in warmer climates, are the most damaging insect threat to the peas.  They burrow into that are still growing and hollow out peas by the time they are harvested or during storage.   damage is impossible to detect until the next generation of emerges post-harvest, by which time and quality have been significantly affected.

So far the only way to control pea weevils is to spray crops with insecticides or fumigate the harvested seeds - an expensive, environmentally unfriendly and only partially effective practice.

Crop scientists have spent years trying to isolate pea weevil-resistant genes to create stronger field pea varieties that don't need pesticide protection.  Previously they have had to rely on a time-consuming and impractical screening process which slowed attempts to breed better field peas.

In a research leap that will benefit field pea growers across the globe, a team including Associate Professor Guijun Yan, of UWA's School of and Institute of Agriculture, has now developed a quick, reliable and cheaper method to screen field pea varieties on a large scale.

The breakthrough has enabled UWA researchers to identify pea weevil-resistant genes within wild field pea varieties and begin introducing the genes to cultivated field peas via traditional breeding methods.

Field peas are one of the world's oldest domesticated crops dating back to the and are a major for humans and animals globally.  Australia alone produces 400,000 tonnes of field peas annually for export and local consumption.

Associate Professor Yan said more work needed to be done but the discovery meant farmers could have access to pea weevil-resistant pea varieties within 5-7 years.

"We have moved forward," he said.  "We have developed a technique to screen, identified the gene and been able to bring it back to the cultivated pea.  The work now needs to continue but it's a very good discovery.

"It will lead to the elimination of pee weevil , enable farmers to increased their pea yields and provide consumers with better quality peas."

The previous method of screening for resistant lines of field pea (glasshouse bioassay) meant only about 30 plants - with 20 seeds per plant - could be screened in a day.  The new method, which involves separating pea weevil-infested and non-infested seeds by density in a solution of Caesium chloride, means up to 400 plants - regardless of the number of seeds - can be screened in a day.

The four-year study was funded by the Australian Research Council and published this month in the journal Crop and Pasture Science.

Explore further: Sowing a future for peas

Related Stories

Sowing a future for peas

September 16, 2008

New research from the John Innes Centre and the Central Science Laboratory could help breeders to develop pea varieties able to withstand drought stress and climate change. The research also shows that the composition of ...

New Peas Unfazed by Viral Bully

December 4, 2009

( -- Four advanced dry pea breeding lines that tolerate the pea enation mosaic virus (PEMV) -- a “scourge” of Pacific West pea crops -- have been identified by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.

Perfect peas to push profits and cut carbon

March 8, 2010

Scientists, pea breeders and the food industry are collaborating to discover how taste and tenderness can be determined by biochemistry and genetics. They will work together to hone the make-up of a perfect pea.

Recommended for you

First look at pupil size in sleeping mice yields surprises

January 18, 2018

When people are awake, their pupils regularly change in size. Those changes are meaningful, reflecting shifting attention or vigilance, for example. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on January 18 have found in ...

Hunter-gatherers have a special way with smells

January 18, 2018

When it comes to naming colors, most people do so with ease. But, for odors, it's much harder to find the words. One notable exception to this rule is found among the Jahai people, a group of hunter-gatherers living in the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.