Eat My Dust – Insect –Resistant Crop Almost Ready for Mass Use
If you raise cattle, you are probably familiar with the legume leucaena. It is often grown and fed to cattle to help fatten them up. However, the crop also comes with a determined pest that can ruin vast amounts of the plant. Psyllids love to suck the sap out of the plants, which limits leaf growth, and ends up making the crop pretty much useless for grazing cattle. However, a new insect-resistant version of the crop has been developed and two growers in Australia are starting to grow the crop for seed, meaning it could be released commercially to all growers in the near future.
Grazier Nathan Evans is one of the two growers aloud to try it out, and so far it has grown without any problems from insects. At about three months old, the insect-resistant leucaena is now between six and seven feet tall.
The insect-resistant crop wasn’t easy to develop, though. The scientists who worked on the ten year long project said that when they first started to mix the main leucaena genes with other plant genes to make it resistant to insects, many of the genes from other species resulted in reducing the quality of the crop. They finally came up with a mixture of genes that are 90 percent similar to those of Leucaena leucocephala, the original plant, and 10 percent Leucaena pallida. While this was a huge breakthrough, they still have some more research to do before they are finished. They are currently looking at factors such as leucaena toxicity and the possible need to use phosphorous fertilizer to grow leucaena crops that will live longer.
How do you think this new insect-resistant leucaena crop could change the cattle raising industry? Could this plant make it more sustainable to raise cows for beef?