It is no secret that insecticides are necessary to avoid insect damage to crops and gardens. However, the use of insecticides is not the only weapon farmers have at their disposal when it comes to keeping insects off their crops. There are also genetically modified crops that are specially constituted to repel insects that would normally feed on crops, such as corn and cotton. In other words genetically modified crops have insecticides genetically engineered into them. There is just one problem facing cotton crops, and that problem is the whitefly.
The whitefly is not your typical crop eating insect. Whiteflies suck sap out of plants, which in turn cause plants to wilt and become ultimately useless. The solution to this whitefly problem seems to lie in a particular gene that is expressed in ferns and mosses (yes, it is “mosses,” not “moss”).
It has been noted that whiteflies avoid feeding on ferns and mosses. When researchers dug deeper into why whiteflies have distaste for these plants they discovered that a particular gene that is expressed in both of these plants repels whiteflies. Naturally scientists began to modify cotton plants to express this same gene. And the results were a success, as whiteflies no longer showed any interest in the modified cotton plants. Despite the success, scientists acknowledge that more research into the anti-whitefly gene needs to be conducted before the modified cotton hits the market.
Do you think scientists could develop something similar that would work on plants other than cotton?