The sweetpotato weevil (SPW), Cylas formicarius, is the most devastating insect pest of sweetpotato worldwide. In the U.S., the devastation by this pest costs the sweetpotato industry several million dollars in crop loss and lost income each year. Many growers in highly infested areas have simply abandoned growing sweetpotatoes. The overall project goals are to elucidate the routes used for the spread of the SPW, and to determine the existence of intra-specific variation in the SPW population in the US and selected overseas countries. These results will lead to more effective and targeted management of the SPW. Results will also make quarantine enforcement more efficient. We are examining the highly conserved and phenotypically neutral rDNA sequences of both the 18S and ITS1 regions of the SPW genome as a way to determine the population structures and origins of SPW in the US. Here, the molecular genetic aspects of the project are outlined, and preliminary results are presented.
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