Mutant corn could yield new ways to fight devastating rootworm beetle without insecticides

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Researchers at the University of Purdue have discovered a natural novel corn mutation that is highly susceptible to attack by the rootworm beetle, the most destructive pest in the US. The research was published online at PLoS ONE.

This discovery shows researchers that “normal” corn plants have a natural defense mechanism, one they can begin to investigate using the mutant corn.  Exploring the genetic pathway involved in resistance will allow scientists to develop better ways of controlling the beetle without the need for insecticides, says Guri Johal, professor of botany and plant pathology. The  corn is more susceptible to the beetle’s attack because structural and biochemical changes in the leaves make their cells weaker. The research was published online at PLoS ONE.

Further research is being done on the possibility of using the mutant in pest control strategies and identifying the genetic pathway in normal corn plants that prevents Western corn rootworm beetles from consuming their leaves. The genes could be used to make corn plants more pest-resistant, Johal said.

Read the full, original story here: Mutant corn could yield new ways to curb ‘billion-dollar bug’

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