Insights from Population Genomics to Enhance and Sustain Biological Control of Insect Pests
Biological control—the use of organisms (e.g., nematodes, arthropods, bacteria, fungi, viruses) for the suppression of insect pest species—is a well-established, ecologically sound and economically profitable tactic for crop protection. This approach has served as a sustainable solution for many insect pest problems for over a century in North America. However, all pest management tactics have associated risks. Specifically, the ecological non-target effects of biological control have been examined in numerous systems. In contrast, the need to understand the short- and long-term evolutionary consequences of human-mediated manipulation of biological control organisms for importation, augmentation and conservation biological control has only recently been acknowledged. Particularly, population genomics presents exceptional opportunities to study adaptive evolution and invasiveness of pests and biological control organisms. Population genomics also provides insights into (1) long-term biological consequences of releases, (2) the ecological success and sustainability of this pest management tactic and (3) non-target effects on native species, populations and ecosystems. Recent advances in genomic sequencing technology and model-based statistical methods to analyze population-scale genomic data provide a much needed impetus for biological control programs to benefit by incorporating a consideration of evolutionary consequences. Here, we review current technology and methods in population genomics and their applications to biological control and include basic guidelines for biological control researchers for implementing genomic technology and statistical modeling.