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Etho-Analysis: HTP phenotyping insect behaviour by videotracking

Contact Details

Wageningen UR, Wageningen Plant Research

Radix building, Droevendaalsesteeg 1, 6708PB Wageningen

Maarten Jongsma


Hotel Description

Sucking insects, such as thrips, aphids and whiteflies, can have devastating effects in agriculture and horticulture due to both direct damage and virus transmission. Traditionally, these insect pests are controlled by repeated spraying of insecticides. However, the recent bans on neonicotinoids (neuro-active insecticides) in Europe and the United States, and health concerns about pesticides in general, are creating urgent calls for alternatives. The loss in yield from piercing, cell-feeding insects can be greatly reduced if crops are better equipped with defense mechanisms. Breeding for host-plant resistance to sucking insects has gained much interest in recent years. A crucial element in the breeding process is the accurate estimation of the resistance level of large populations of plant accessions. This requires robust phenotyping systems that can accurately screen many different plant lines in a high-throughput manner.

Conventional phenotyping methods mainly focus on costly, labor-intensive and time-consuming end-point measurements of feeding damage or insect performance (reproduction and mortality). Visual rating systems that score feeding damage often do not allow precise quantification and are sensitive to subjectivity and inconsistency of the scoring process.

EntoLab™ is the long-awaited solution that overcomes the limitations of conventional screening methods. Developed by Noldus Information Technology in collaboration with Wageningen Plant Research and renowned plant breeding companies, EntoLab is a novel computerized system for automated screening of plants for resistance to sucking insects. The integrated hardware/software system includes a variety of multi-arena leaf holders (optimized for choice and no-choice tests), a high-resolution digital video camera, LED illuminators, and software for video tracking, data processing and statistical analysis.

EntoLab has been validated in either choice or no-choice assays for different species of thrips, aphids and whitefly in various combinations on pepper, tomato, water melon, chrysanthemum, white cabbage, lily, lettuce, and bitter gourd. It has shown to deliver more accurate and more detailed insight in the behavior of herbivorous insects on different plant genotypes, with approx. 90% reduction in time and costs of screening.

Automated, high-throughput phenotyping of host-plant resistance to sucking insects will greatly aid research and the breeding process for insect-resistant crops. The unlocking of behavioral details that have often gone unnoticed will in the future lead to more insight into the environmental and genetic mechanisms that control it. Genetic improvement of commercial vegetables and ornamental crops will reduce the dependency on chemical pesticides, thus contributing to more sustainable crop production.

  • Agri & Food
  • bioinformatics
  • metabolomics
  • proteomics
  • receptomics
  • plant genetic engineering
  • insect resistance
  • sucking insect pests
  • vegetables and flowers
  • insect behaviour

Expertise and Track Record

  • A facility to test insects in 200 parallel arenas on whole leaves or with leaf discs
  • A highly efficient software to convert videotracking data into desirable statistically verified results for a large number of behaviour traits and large populations of plant genotypes.
  • Experience in dealing with a wide range of insect pests like aphids, thrips and whitefly

1. Topsector T&U, TKI project HTP phenotyping plant resistance to sucking insect pests (development of the technology platform)
2. Industry project: analysis of thrips resistance in pepper

3. Industry project: analyis of thrips resistance in anthurium

4. Industry project: analysis of aphid resistance in sugar beet

Yes I have supervised programs integrating behaviour with genetic data in GWAS projects.

  • 1. Jongsma MA et al (2019) An integrated system for the automated recording and analysis of insect behavior in T-maze arrays. Frontiers in Plant Science. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00020
  • 2. de Bruijn JAC et al. (2018) Automated high-throughput individual tracking system for insect behavior: Applications on memory retention in parasitic wasps. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 309: 208-217 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2018.09.012
  • 3. Thoen MPM et al. (2016) Genetic architecture of plant stress resistance: multi-trait genome-wide association mapping. New Phytologist 213: 1346-1362 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/nph.14220

Hotel Characteristics

  • 1 technician
  • 0.2 lab manager
  • 0.1 biostatistician
  • 0.1 programmer

90% turnover is serving external parties

  • several different types of dedicated arena set ups, choice and non-choice, two cameras and lenses for parallel recording, Noldus Ethovision software, WUR EthoAnalysis software.


An intranet accessible harddisk