Next-generation biological control: the need for integrating genetics and genomics

Kelley Leung*, Erica Ras, Kim B. Ferguson, Simone Ariëns, Dirk Babendreier, Piter Bijma, Kostas Bourtzis, Jacques Brodeur, Margreet A. Bruins, Alejandra Centurión, Sophie R. Chattington, Milena Chinchilla-Ramírez, Marcel Dicke, Nina E. Fatouros, Joel González-Cabrera, Thomas V.M. Groot, Tim Haye, Markus Knapp, Panagiota Koskinioti, Sophie Le HesranManolis Lyrakis, Angeliki Paspati, Meritxell Pérez-Hedo, Wouter N. Plouvier, Christian Schlötterer, Judith M. Stahl, Andra Thiel, Alberto Urbaneja, Louis van de Zande, Eveline C. Verhulst, Louise E.M. Vet, Sander Visser, John H. Werren, Shuwen Xia, Bas J. Zwaan, Sara Magalhães, Leo W. Beukeboom, Bart A. Pannebakker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Biological control is widely successful at controlling pests, but effective biocontrol agents are now more difficult to import from countries of origin due to more restrictive international trade laws (the Nagoya Protocol). Coupled with increasing demand, the efficacy of existing and new biocontrol agents needs to be improved with genetic and genomic approaches. Although they have been underutilised in the past, application of genetic and genomic techniques is becoming more feasible from both technological and economic perspectives. We review current methods and provide a framework for using them. First, it is necessary to identify which biocontrol trait to select and in what direction. Next, the genes or markers linked to these traits need be determined, including how to implement this information into a selective breeding program. Choosing a trait can be assisted by modelling to account for the proper agro-ecological context, and by knowing which traits have sufficiently high heritability values. We provide guidelines for designing genomic strategies in biocontrol programs, which depend on the organism, budget, and desired objective. Genomic approaches start with genome sequencing and assembly. We provide a guide for deciding the most successful sequencing strategy for biocontrol agents. Gene discovery involves quantitative trait loci analyses, transcriptomic and proteomic studies, and gene editing. Improving biocontrol practices includes marker-assisted selection, genomic selection and microbiome manipulation of biocontrol agents, and monitoring for genetic variation during rearing and post-release. We conclude by identifying the most promising applications of genetic and genomic methods to improve biological control efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1838-1854
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number6
Early online date14 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • artificial selection
  • biological control
  • genetics
  • genome assembly
  • genomics
  • insect breeding
  • microbiome
  • modelling


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