28 May 2013
A University of the Sunshine Coast researcher has won a $149,000 grant to use genetics to control snails and slugs in agriculture and backyards.
USC Research Fellow Dr Michael Stewart, whose team includes Dr Scott Cummins and Dr Tianfang Wang, received one of five grants awarded from 170 applications to the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
Dr Stewart said the Innovation Investment grant would support his work on new pest control tools to stop snail and slug invasions in farms and gardens.
He recently started the 18-month project, ‘Harnessing molluscan neurohormones to develop new molluscicides’.
“My previous research into the Mediterranean snail Theba pisana identified 30 key neurohormones that were unique only to molluscs,” Dr Stewart said.
“The goal is to learn ways to manipulate how these animals operate at the molecular level, which could lead to the development of new, powerful, target-specific molluscicides.”
The GRDC said the idea of incorporating the proteins that regulated snails’ mating and feeding into a molluscicide had never been attempted and offered a new approach to pesticide development.
Dr Stewart said the USC project could provide huge economic benefits to areas such as South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, which has plagues of the invasive pests.
“This project is expected to help the grains industry by reducing the impact of these and other agricultural mollusc pests, which costs the industry millions of dollars annually,” he said.
“Our research also has cross-species applications which will ensure outcomes have a significant global impact.”
— Julie Schomberg