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Breeding Wildness Back for Resilience

Cherry tomatoesWild tomatoes are better able to protect themselves against the destructive whitefly than our modern, commercial varieties, according to a study published in the academic journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Researchers show that in our quest for larger, redder, longer-lasting tomatoes we have inadvertently bred out key characteristics that help the plant defend itself against predators. Led by Newcastle University, UK, the research shows that wild tomatoes have a dual line of defense against attack; an initial mechanism which discourages the whitefly from settling on the plant and a second line of defense which happens inside the plant where a chemical reaction causes the plant sap to “gum up” blocking the whitefly’s feeding tube. Thomas McDaniel, who led the research, says the findings highlight the natural resistance of wild plant varieties and suggests we need to “breed some of that wildness back in” instead of continuously looking for new methods of pest control.

This article appears in the April 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

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