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New Seed Treatment Could Reduce Pesticide Use

(Beyond Pesticides, October 15, 2008) Researchers have developed a potential new method of making plants significantly more resistant to pests. Scientists from Lancaster University (UK) have conducted early trials whose results have yielded promise to greatly reduce pesticide by first treating seeds with a chemical that is naturally produced by plants.

This new method involves dipping seeds in jasmonic acid, a plant derived chemical that provides a natural defense against pests. When threatened by plant-eating insects, plants release jasmonic acid as a chemical signal to warn other parts of the plant to mobilize their pest defenses in order to make the plant difficult to digest. Jasmonic acid has long been used as a repellent for pests like mites, caterpillars and aphids when sprayed onto crops. Jasmonic acid however, also acts as a growth inhibitor and sprayed plants do not grow very well, but scientists at Lancaster University’s Environment Centre have found that plants grown from seeds first dipped in jasmonic acid are also more pest resistant without any loss of growth.

The best results were on tomato plants, where attacks by red spider mites were reduced by 80%, aphid attack was reduced by 60% and caterpillar damage was down by a third. Promising results were also obtained on sweet pepper where aphid attacks were reduced by 70 per cent, and caterpillar damage to wheat was reduced by 65 per cent. Meanwhile on maize, caterpillar damage was reduced by 38 per cent.

“We were investigating the mechanisms by which wild plants defend themselves against pest attack to get a better understanding of what works in nature. We were spraying the leaves of our plants with jasmonic acid and wondered what would happen if we treated the seeds instead. It seemed unlikely that it would work but we were amazed to discover that it did – tomato plants were protected for about two months after they germinated,” said lead researcher Nigel Paul, PhD, of Lancaster University.

Large-scale trials of this new technology are expected this year and by the end of the year, the researchers should know whether or not a commercial product will go into development. In the meantime, work is being put into developing new applications for the technology, including investigating its value in disease control.

Until now attempts at creating pest resistant crops involved genetically modified (GM) technology. Many proponents of GM technology believe GM crops can alleviate the current crisis in food supply. However studies have shown that GM crops can lead to a large increase in pesticide use, due to increased insect resistance. GM crops have also been found to harm aquatic ecosystems and contaminate organic and non-GM crops.

Source: Lancaster University News, BBC News


4 Responses to “New Seed Treatment Could Reduce Pesticide Use”

  1. 1
    Kelley Says:

    I am in the seed biz and have seen the food shortages beginning. That is why I am beginning to save non hybrid vegetable seeds.
    No family should be without an emergency survival garden plan. It is easy, affordable and will put your mind at ease. Remember to only use non modified (gmo)untreated (for chemicals) seeds. And MOST IMPORTANT, and I cant stress this fact enough!! your garden seeds MUST not be a HYBRYD. The dna has been altered with a terminator gene that essentally makes the seed sterile after its first use and therefore cant be used to produce viable seds for the following years. This is important if we run into a food shortage in the next year or two. You should start growing and saving seeds NOW. If you dont need them in the future you are only out $50 and you have eaten well all year.
    We sell a full garden of seeds at http://www.backyardheirloomseeds.net Also canning varieties, herbs and medicinal herbs. Think ahead and prepare. It cant hurt.

  2. 2
    Bud DIngler Says:

    food shortage yah right. go into as typical grocery store and find on average 1400 different items. 1300 of them you don’t need. 1/3 of food produced or imported into the USA is wasted.

    the so called food shortage is as bogus as global warming, the bailout of wall street and a host of other widely held beliefs that sheople have been snookered into believing…..

  3. 3
    Kelley Says:

    ……Wake up and look around at the natural disasters, flooding, etc…all over the USA and the world. It has caused crop failures everywhere. America only grows some of its natural food- we import some as well. If it is not there….it is a shortage. Many farmers are quitting faster than others are beginning to farm in the USA. In other countries, Farmers are committing sucicide simply because they accidentally grew a crop of hybrids vs. non gmo seeds(seeds they can save for planting the next year). It IS becoming a problem—unless you want to live off canned who knows what for who knows how long –simply prepare. Its not hard! I am not preaching doom and gloom-simply preparadness. Store the seeds in your freezer if you dont want to garden untill its necessary. They will last up to 3-5 years this way. http://www.backyardheirloomseeds.com

  4. 4
    Farmer John Says:

    This is a great leap forward without using chemicials. We have been experimenting with seed treatments of a natural compound found in thyme.

    Plant a Seed

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