Breeding to destroy Colorado potato beetle

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
February 12, 2018
By Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Breeding to destroy Colorado potato beetle
Photo courtesy of AAFC.
Chemicals in the leaves of potato plants, produced naturally by the plant, may hold the key to a new way in controlling Colorado potato beetles. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist, Helen Tai (pictured here) has turned to the leaves growing on wild potato relatives – leaves that Colorado potato beetles won’t eat – as a new approach to keep the pest away.

Many plants in the potato family contain natural defence chemicals that protect plants against insects and pathogens. Using mass spectrometry and other sophisticated tools, Tai was able to identify what’s in the wild potato plant leaves that make the beetle avoid them.

Potato breeders at the Fredericton research and development centre used cross-breeding of a wild relative with common popular potato varieties to develop a potato with built in beetle resistance. Not all of the potatoes from the cross carry the resistance, but the profile that Tai discovered identifies which ones do.

Colorado potato beetles are already showing a resistance to the popular pesticides used by potato growers adding to the need for new solutions. Tai sees use of beetle resistant varieties together with integrated pest management methods as an alternative approach to mitigate pesticide resistance. These resistant
potato varieties can provide growers with an option to avoid serious crop losses.

Two of these new resistant potatoes are already in the breeding program and available to industry to trial.

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