GM Wheat Fails in the Field

A field trial of wheat genetically engineered to resist aphids fails to measure up to lab tests.

By | June 26, 2015

WIKIMEDIA

In an effort to cut back on the need for pesticides, many research groups have developed genetically modified (GM) wheat that can fight pathogens and resist pests. Besides incidental appearances of Monsanto’s Round-up Ready wheat, just one variety of GM wheat has made it out of the lab and into the field for testing. But according to a study published in Scientific Reports yesterday (June 25), those field trials have failed.

Researchers at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, U.K., designed the study, which took place over the course of several months in 2012 and 2013, to test the resistance of wheat programmed to make a pheromone that repels aphids, insects that feed on and transmit viruses to plants. The pheromone, called (E)-β-farnesene (Eβf) also attracts some aphid predators. Despite its ability to deter aphids in lab tests, the Eβf-producing wheat harbored similar numbers of aphids as wild-type wheat when grown in a field.

“We had hoped that this technique would offer a way to reduce the use of insecticides in pest control in arable farming,” study coauthor Huw Jones, a molecular biologist at Rothamsted said in a statement. “As so often happens, this experiment shows that the real world environment is much more complicated than the laboratory.”

Jonathan Gershenzon, who studies plant chemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany and was not involved in the study, told The Guardian that the pheromone-releasing strategy likely “doesn’t work in nature because the aphids get used to the continuous release of their alarm pheromone and thus learn to ignore it.”

According to Nature News, the Rothamsted team plans to address this issue by programming their wheat to release Eβf in bursts rather than continuously.

“I give them lots of points for trying and even more points for being willing to publish negative data,” Gershenzon told Nature News. “It shows how science can work.”

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Comments

Avatar of: JonRichfield

JonRichfield

Posts: 135

June 26, 2015

"I give them lots of points for trying and even more points for being willing to publish negative data,” Gershenzon told Nature News. “It shows how science can work.”
Hear hear!!!

Avatar of: Hugh-F-61

Hugh-F-61

Posts: 69

June 26, 2015

An aphid that flies/falls into a field of wheat may have difficulty finding its way out even if it does stink of scared aphids.

Avatar of: JimmyJ

JimmyJ

Posts: 3

June 27, 2015

Why not artificially boost the numbers of ladybird beetles in the field? Maybe build a robotic box device (beehive/ladybridhive) that breeds them then periodically releases large numbers?

Avatar of: Dr Upender

Dr Upender

Posts: 1

June 28, 2015

Real world environment is much more complicated than the laboratory.” However, it is needed to understand the plant pest interaction from the field and try to solve the problem faced and best suitedly find the solution to resist the pest attack on the plants. I hope perfect realistic understands can give the more solution in making new things

 

 

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