Crop Biotech Update

GM Wheat Made to Scare Aphids

March 30, 2012

Field trials are now being done in England for a genetically modified (GM) wheat that scares away aphids and attracts a deadly predator to devour them, providing an alternative to insecticides that are presently used to control the pest.

The wheat emits a pheromone that is similar to the one which aphids release when they are being attacked. The pheromone induces panic attacks and the aphids eventually leave the plant. The pheromone not only wards off aphids, but also attracts tiny parasitoid wasps that lay eggs on the aphids, providing a second line of defense for the crops. The parasitoid wasps eat the aphids from the inside out, thus, reducing their population on the crop. Aphids, also called greenfly and blackfly, cause significant damage to crops and spread diseases as well.

The wheat has been modified using a gene from peppermint plants, and the field trials conducted at Rothamsted Research facility in eastern England used a spring planted variety called Cadenza.

More details are available at http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/Content.php?Section=AphidWheat/.