The cotton leafworm Spodoptera litura is a polyphagous insect. It has recently made a comeback as a primary insect pest of cotton in Pakistan due to reductions in pesticide use on the advent of genetically modified cotton, resistant to Helicoverpa armigera. Spodoptera litura nucleopolyhedrovirus (SpltNPV) infects S. litura and is recognized as a potential candidate to control this insect. Twenty-two NPV isolates were collected from S. litura from different agro-ecological zones (with collection sites up to 600 km apart) and cropping systems in Pakistan to see whether there is spatial dispersal and adaptation of the virus and/or adaptation to crops. Therefore, the genetic make-up and biological activity of these isolates was measured. Among the SpltNPV isolates tested for speed of kill in 3rd instar larvae of S. litura, TAX1, SFD1, SFD2 and GRW1 were significantly faster killing isolates than other Pakistani isolates. Restriction fragment length analysis of the DNA showed that the Pakistan SpltNPV isolates are all variants of a single SpltNPV biotype. The isolates could be grouped into three genogroups (A–C). The speed of kill of genogroup A viruses was higher than in group C according to a Cox’ proportional hazards analysis. Sequence analysis showed that the Pakistan SpltNPV isolates are more closely related to each other than to the SpltNPV type species G2 (Pang et al., 2001). This suggests a single introduction of SpltNPV into Pakistan. The SpltNPV-PAK isolates are distinct from Spodoptera littoralis nucleopolyhedrovirus. There was a strong correlation between geographic spread and the genetic variation of SpltNPV, and a marginally significant correlation between the latter and the cropping system. The faster killing isolates may be good candidates for biological control of S. litura in Pakistan.
- Biological activity
- Cropping systems
- Genetic characterization
- Geographical regions
- Spodoptera litura nucleopolyhedroviruses