Research Highlight

Genome of nasty crop pest sequenced

doi:10.1038/nindia.2014.121 Published online 7 September 2014

Researchers in New Delhi have sequenced the draft genome of 'army worm' Spodoptera frugipedra, one of the most destructive agricultural pests responsible for crop damage in tropical and subtropical regions of the world1

This is the fourth genome publication from India (non-microbial) and the first without  foreign collaboration, according to the researchers. 

S. frugiperda belongs to the second largest order of insects called Lepidoptera that include butterflies. While  the biology of other lepidoterans, such as Danaus plexippus and Heliconius had been studied earlier, there has not been much focus on the important pest S. frugiperda due to unavailability of its genome. A major limitation in obtaining extensive genetic data was the prohibitive costs associated with sequencing and assembling large eukaryotic genomes. 

Now scientists at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi have generated and assembled a draft sequence for S. frugiperda using 'cost effective' Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS)  platforms. They have annotated the sequenced genomic libraries against Reference Sequence Protein Database at the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The use of three different NGS  platforms significantly improved sequencing throughput  and reduced costs," says Madavan Vasudevan of Bangalore-based Bionivid Technology that provided the NGS services to the ICGEB scientists. 

"Globally this is one of the few publications where the whole genome sequencing and data analysis strategy involved multiple platforms enabling the scientists to complete the whole work in just 20 months," he told Nature India

The researchers say their work would help understand the genetic basis of S. frugiperda biology and facilitate studies of comparative genomics and basic research leading towards genome based approaches for the control of this pest.


1. Kakumani, P. K. et al. A draft genome assembly of the army worm, Spodoptera frugiperda. Genomics 104, 134-143 (2014) doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2014.06.005