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A RAPD-PCR-based genetic diversity analysis of Helicoverpa armigera and H. zea populations in Brazil

Author(s): H.M. Lopes, C.S. Bastos, L.S. Boiteux, J. Foresti and F.A. Suinaga

Helicoverpa armigera is the most significant pest of agriculture in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australasia, causing damage to crops greater than US$2 billion annually and until 2013 it was not detected in Brazil. Helicoverpa zea is restricted to the American continent and is important to corn and a secondary pest of cotton and tomatoes. The wide range of crops exploited by H. armigera (mainly cotton, soybeans, chickpea, and corn), the possible mating between these species can promote population shifts, that could be assessed by RAPD-PCR technique. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the genetic diversity of H. armigera and H. zea populations by RAPD-PCR analysis. The most important result was the clustering of one H. armigera population in a group predominantly formed by H. zea. It could indicate a possible occurrence of an interspecific cross between these species. This is a concern to Brazilian agriculture due to the possibility of selection of hybrids well adapted to the American environment, which would be inherited from H. zea. The other noxious fact is the possible development of new biotypes resistant to insectides or Bt toxins expressed in transgenic crops, came from H. armigera gene pool.