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Moth Spit May Help Farmers Grow More Potatoes

Moth Spit May Help Farmers Grow More Potatoes

The agricultural industry is so obsessed with keeping weeds and insects away from its crops (usually through genetic modification and dangerous chemical pesticides), that it might seem counter-intuitive to look for the secret to increased crop yields among the pests themselves.

But a study soon to be published in Ecological Applications found that larvae of one of the most troublesome potato pests in Latin America—the Guatemalan potato moth (Tecia solanivora) were the source of dramatically increased potato yields in Colombia.

In some areas of Columbia, farmers apply pesticides twice a week in an attempt to keep these spud-munchers at bay.

According to a researcher from Georg August University in Germany, the larger, more abundant potatoes were a result of chemical elicitors in the larvae saliva, which are produced in its foregut (EcoTone).

When moth larva infested one of the tubers (potatoes are stem tubers) of a Colombian Andes potato plant (Solanum tuberosum), the rest of the plant, including the remaining tubers, increased in size and abundance. The resulting yield (when infested potatoes were removed) weighed 2.5 times more than the yield from completely undamaged plants.

Researchers are fascinated by the underlying molecular and metabolic mechanisms at work in their study, and hope that the isolation and application of the herbivore-derived elicitors can provide promising tools for managing the impact of herbivores on crops.

No word yet on whether or not drool from other species could have a similar effect.

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Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons - tibchris

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61 comments

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5:39AM PDT on Sep 18, 2010

Potatoes are one of the most common vegetables all over the world. They are cheap, easy to cook and have so many health benefits.
You can bake them, boil them, microwave them... everyone can make something to eat with potatoes.I will start to grow potatoes
in my farm and now learning watever i can about them, thanks for information. I also found another good site
about potatoes and so many other methods of agriculturing, i recommend you to take a look.

http://agricultureguide.org/

4:30AM PDT on Jul 17, 2010

That's very fascinating! Thanks for sharing...we have so much to learn about the symbiotics of nature :D

9:29PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

Hmmm.... sounds sort of like the way vacinations create antibodies in human bodies.

And it's amazing how, when we look at the big picture, what looks like a pest on the surface is actually a benefactor, in this case in increased potato production.

8:57AM PDT on Jun 22, 2010

amazing nature again

10:10PM PDT on Jun 17, 2010

Now we know what Mothra ate to become so big.
Small potatoes.

8:14PM PDT on Jun 12, 2010

Moth to potatoes!

12:33AM PDT on Jun 12, 2010

Wow

10:25AM PDT on Jun 9, 2010

Great.

7:41AM PDT on Jun 9, 2010

Interesting and informative article, but the illustration, sadly, is not Tecia solanivora; in fact it is not a moth at all, but a skipper. The only photo I can quickly turn up on the web of your actual moth is here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/viajealperu/3942319441/
As you see it is not photogenic.

11:12AM PDT on Jun 8, 2010

thanks for posting

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