Mar 12, 2018
New varieties to protect against Colorado potato beetle

Canadian researchers have developed new potato varieties resistant to the Colorado potato beetle. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), naturally-produced chemicals in potato leaves, may hold the key to a new way to control Colorado potato beetles.

Helen Tai, an AAFC research scientist, looked to leaves growing on wild potato relatives, which beetles won’t eat, as a new approach to keep the pest away.

Many plants in the potato family contain natural defenses to pests. Using mass spectrometry and other tools, Tai identified the active ingredients 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.

“Breeding new potato varieties resistant to beetle feeding, now in the advanced stages, opens the way to a new era where potato growers could reduce pesticide spray applications for insect control,” Tai said.

She said the use of beetle-resistant varieties together with integrated pest management methods are 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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