Eggplant production is severely constrained by two major insect pests, the eggplant fruit and shoot borer or EFSB (Leucinodes orbonalis Guenee; Lepidoptera: Crambidae) and leafhopper or LH (Amrasca biguttula (Ishida); Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). Yield losses from EFSB and LH infestations have been estimated at up to 90% and 50%, respectively, at severe pest pressure. Farmers use excessive amount of chemical sprays to control EFSB and LH because conventional breeding for resistance has failed to produce commercial varieties with acceptable levels of resistance to these pests. Other control practices are more expensive, impractical and/or ineffective. The preferred control method of heavy insecticide application significantly increases input cost by 25- 30% and more importantly, poses immediate and long-term hazards on human health and the environment. It is expected that EFSB and LH infestations will be getting more severe because of climate change and intensified production system for food security. Therefore, it is imperative to develop effective and environmentally sustainable solutions to control EFSB and LH. Consequently, this will improve farmers’ productivity and consumer access to this important food crop. The release of insect resistant varieties remains the best option which researchers can provide to farmers.
The project aims to develop and deploy improved eggplant varieties with effective EFSB and resistance derived from plant defense genes using advanced biotechnology techniques such as marker-assisted selection (MAS), genomic selection (GS) and/or new breeding techniques (NBTs).