Division of Plant Sciences and Bond LSC investigators Jack Schultz and Heidi Appel have been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to unravel the mystery of how an insect pest gets the better of the world’s – and Missouri’s – most valuable fruit crop. Grape phylloxera is an insect that infests grapevine leaves and roots, reducing the plant’s production and cutting off its water supply. The insect somehow convinces the plant to construct a complex home and feeding site around itself, called a gall. Many kinds of insects can cause plants to create galls, but no one knows how they do it. Clues suggest that the insect uses chemical signals to alter the activity of genes needed to develop these unique organs. The Schultz/Appel team, helped by collaborators at the University of Florida, will identify grapevine genes the insect manipulates to form a gall. Not only will this solve a long-standing mystery about the galling process, but it will also offer the grape/wine industry a means of identifying resistant vines. Missouri saved the world’s wine industry once before, by exporting phylloxera-resistant vines. This research project offers a second opportunity to defeat this scourge of the vineyard.