Hughes Lab

Applied Research at Penn State

Ants pose a significant threat to agriculture because of their mutualism with phloem feeding insects such as hemipterans. Much of the disease incidence and spread of diseases on plants is due to the hundreds of thousands of ants that protect plant-feeding insects that vector disease. Ants farm these sucking insects and ‘milk’ them for the by-product sugar they excrete.  This is a strong mutualism and ant protection increases the populations of plant feeding insects, and in turn, this greatly increases the rate of disease spread between plants as the bugs transmit viral and bacterial infections and the hundreds of thousands of ant legs and mandibles introduce fungi and psuedo-fungi (oomycetes) into leaf tissue.  Reflecting the successful integration found at Penn State I am interested in bringing diverse approaches to study agricultural diseases. We are working now on ants on small holder Cassava and Cocoa farms in Ghana.

David's Bio

David P. Hughes, Ph.D.
  • Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Global Food Security