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Crop Biotech Update

Gene Technology Helps Deceive Greedy Pest Insects

August 3, 2012

The diamond-back moth is a serious pest problem among cabbage farmers worldwide. It lays its eggs on cabbage plants and the larvae ruins the yield. Morten Emil Møldrup from the University of Copenhagen developed a method to deceive the greedy insects by letting them lay their eggs on tobacco plants instead.

Møldrup and his colleagues studied glucosinolates, the defense compounds of the cabbage family exhaustively. Glucosinolates are toxic to cabbage pests, but not to diamond-back moths which are attracted to the odor of these compounds. To them, the odor signals an ideal place to lay their eggs and this also ensures food for their larvae without competition from other pests. After thoroughly studying how cabbage plants produce defense compounds, Møldrup and his team successfully transferred the genes responsible for the production of glucosinolates from cabbage into tobacco plants.

Møldrup said that "our experiments show that it is indeed possible to fool the diamond-back moth to lay its eggs on tobacco plants. This is fantastic because the larvae are a major problem all over the world."

The news release about this research is available at http://news.ku.dk/all_news/2012/2012.8/new_biotech_fools_plants/.