Lady beetle, by Scott Bauer. (Wikimedia Commons) Managing pests is an important part of cultivating plants whether you are tending a small garden in your yard or several fields of crops. Insect predators can make short work of healthy plants, particularly if insect predators are in abundance. The good news is that there are natural ways to combat these pests that growers have been utilizing for many years. Granted, not all solutions are created equal. There are a number of reasons why biological control efforts may fail; including breeding being out of sync or the countermeasure not being strong enough.
Cotton Bollworm. Source: USDA The issue of pest resistance to insect resistant Bt crops receives regular media attention, partly because anti-biotechnology lobbies use it as an argument to vilify GM crops. The German NGO testbiotech, in a recently published report commissioned by Member of the European Parliament Martin Häuslingof the Green Party, argues that because of potential resistance development, GM crops should not be allowed for cultivation in the EU: There must be no large-scale, commercial cultivation of GE herbicide-tolerant or insecticide-producing crops. Such crop cultivation is unsustainable and will lead to a ‘race’ to step up their cultivation. The
In England, there is an important experiment underway. A research group at the Rothamsted Research station in Harpenden, is testing a variety of wheat that has been genetically engineered to scare away aphid pests. If successful, the experiment could demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel, environmentally-friendly way to manage pests. However, a protest group is threatening the ability of the researchers to continue their project, and there have been a lot of claims made about the research. To help shed some light on this experiment, I interviewed Dr. Gia Aradottir, a biologist who is involved in the project. KJHvM: Can
Talks & Interviews aphids
, Crop pests and disease
, Genetic Engineering
, pest control
In part 1 of this series, I explained how we’ve been using genetic engineering of sorts for nearly half a century to control insects by using radiation to induce sterility or other dominant lethal mutations in insects. In part 2, I explained how we can use genetic engineering to make these projects safer and easier. So… part 3. What’s the next step? Put it to the test!
In part 1 of this series, I discussed the history of genetic modification in insects as pest control. We’ve been creating insect GMOs for the purposes of controlling pests for awhile. If you bombard insects with radiation, it can kill rapidly reproducing cells. High doses of radiation can also damage the DNA in quickly reproducing gamete producing cells to the point where it can’t be read, creating severe mutations that stop important proteins from being made. In other words, sperm are produced, but they aren’t healthy. If female flies mate with one of these males, she won’t produce any offspring.