Eaten alive: Crops can ‘feel’ insects eating them, providing clues to insect resistance

stock footage brown caterpillar insects macro k

new study arrived at the fairly gruesome conclusion that plants can feel insects eat them alive. And a specific type of plant, the Arabidopsis in the cabbage family, can actually distinguish between insects munching on it based on the way they chew and drool.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, wasn’t conducted for charity. There’s money in Arabidopsis, which flowers into major food crops kale, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts.

Rather than soaking plants with insecticides, agricultural breeders are keenly interested in designing them in a way that allows them to naturally resist pests such as two the researchers chose for their experiment. They want to pack martial arts insect fighting capability in the seed.

“Among the genes changed when insects bite are ones that regulate processes like root growth, water use and other ecologically significant processes that plants carefully monitor and control,” Schultz said. “Questions about the cost to the plant if the insect continues to eat would be an interesting follow-up study to explore these deeper genetic interactions.”

The findings have already been incorporated into research that was published at the same time in the same journal, said Heidi Appel, senior research scientist in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri and a lead author on the paper. The value of the study is the revelation that plants respond with different chemicals to different insects, and the more defenses, the better. With Arabidopsis, for example, breeders who want to fight off farm pests have to take each insect into account, and not grow plants that can defend against only one.

“Breeders have to do that. This is a really interesting new frontier in plant biology,” said Jack Schultz, a University of Missouri researcher who led the study. “How to deal with multiple stressers,” giving plants the ability to not only fend off one attacker, but many.

Read full, original article: This plant can feel bugs eating it alive. Can scientists improve its self defense?

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

Video: Test everyone – Slovakia goes its own way to control COVID

As Europe sees record coronavirus cases and deaths, Slovakia is testing its entire adult population. WSJ's Drew Hinshaw explains how ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend