Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

To double spud production, just add a little spit

28.05.2010
When it comes to potentially doubling the output of the world's fourth largest food crop, the secret may be in the spit.

Researchers at Cornell University, as well as the University of Goettingen and National University of Colombia, have discovered that when a major South American pest infests potato tubers, the plant produces bigger spuds.

The secret to this increased yield, they write in the peer-reviewed journal Ecological Applications (April 28, 2010), is found that the saliva of the Guatemalan potato moth larvae (Tecia solanivora). The major pest, which forces many farmers to spray plants with pesticides every two weeks, contains compounds in its foregut that elicits a system-wide response in the Colombian Andes commercial potato plant (Solanum tuberosum) to produce larger tubers.

The researchers found that when the spit of the tuber moth caterpillar gets into a tuber, all the other tubers of the plant grow bigger, said co-author André Kessler, Cornell assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Researchers believe that compounds from the insect's saliva somehow increases the rate of the plant's photosynthesis to compensate for the tubers lost to the caterpillar damage. As a result of more photosynthesis, more carbon is drawn into the plant and used to create starch, which makes for bigger tubers.

Plants have a number of responses to insects and other animals that eat them, including changing metabolism or producing toxins, said Kessler. In turn, the herbivores may develop strategies to counter the plant's defenses and influence its signaling pathways.

"This could be an example where the co-evolutionary arms race led to a beneficial outcome for both," said Kessler.

Another key seems to be getting the right mix of potato and pest.

When the larvae infested fewer than 10 percent of the tubers, the plant produced marketable yields (after infested tubers were removed) that weighed 2.5 times more than undamaged plants, according to the study. When up to 20 percent of the potatoes were damaged, marketable yields still doubled. When as many as half of the potatoes were infested, yields equaled those of plants with no infestation.

The findings have implications for potato farmers. Once isolated, the compound could lead to considerably higher yields in some varieties.

Initially, researchers wanted to show how these pests reduced potato yields, but they actually they found yield increases, said Katja Poveda, the study's principal investigator, at the Agroecology Institute of the University of Goettingen, Germany, and the Cornell entomology department.

"The moth eats all varieties of potatoes, but so far only this one variety responded" with increased yields among seven varieties that were tested as part of a larger project, said Poveda. Future experiments will test more commercial varieties, as well as wild potatoes, she added.

The potato study was funded by the German Research Foundation.
The study can be found online at www.esajournals.org.

John Carberry | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cornell.edu
http://www.esajournals.org

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New study shows producers where and how to grow cellulosic biofuel crops
17.01.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

nachricht Robotic weeders: to a farm near you?
10.01.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>