Chemicals in the leaves of potato plants, produced naturally by the plant, may hold the key to a new way to control Colorado potato beetles - a major pest for potato growers.
Dr. Helen Tai, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist, has turned to the leaves growing on wild potato relatives, leaves that beetles won’t eat, as a new approach to keep the pest away.
Many plants in the potato family contain natural defence chemicals that protect plants against insects and pathogens. Using mass spectrometry and other sophisticated tools, Dr. Tai was able to identify what it is in the wild potato plant leaves that make the beetle avoid them.
Potato breeders at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre used cross breeding of a wild relative with common popular potato varieties to develop a potato with built in beetle resistance. Not all of the potatoes from the cross carry the resistance, but the profile that Dr. Tai discovered identifies which ones do.
Helen Tai, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
“Breeding new potato varieties resistant to beetle feeding, now in the advanced stages, opens the way to a new era where potato growers could reduce pesticide spray applications for insect control.”
Colorado potato beetles are already showing a resistance to the popular pesticides used by potato growers adding to the need for new solutions.
Dr. Tai sees use of beetle resistant varieties together with integrated pest management methods as an alternative approach to mitigate pesticide resistance. These resistant potato varieties can provide growers with an option to avoid serious crop losses.
Matt HempHill, executive director Potatoes New Brunswick:
Colorado beetles cost potato growers hundreds of thousands of dollar per year in damages.”
“The efforts of Dr. Tai and others are instrumental in controlling this pest and therefore increasing both our quality and yields in New Brunswick.”
Joe Brennan, lead New Brunswick Potato Transformations Initiative:
“The goal is to become more competitive in the marketplace,.”Source: Global News
“Everything that can be done to reduce costs and increase yield is a step in the right direction..”
“If these traits can be introduced into varieties that are accepted in the marketplace and growers can grow them without the extra cost and the environmental risk or challenge or more chemicals, then everybody wins.”
Two of these new resistant potatoes are already in the breeding program and available to industry to trial.
Tai said there’s been a lot of public interest already. She hopes there will be interest from industry as well at the Accelerated Release Program coming up in February.