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When pests graze certain potatoes, yields double

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When some Colombian potato varieties are lightly grazed by a pest, the plants respond by growing larger tubers, at times doubling their yields. Although many types of plants can repair pest damage while maintaining productivity, it’s rare to find species that actually overcompensate and increase productivity.

When some Colombian potato varieties are lightly grazed by a pest, the plants respond by growing larger tubers, at times doubling their yields. Although many types of plants can repair pest damage while maintaining productivity, it’s rare to find species that actually overcompensate and increase productivity.

Cornell and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia researchers first discovered this effect in a commercial Colombian potato in 2010. Now, a new study by the research group published Dec. 27, 2017, in the journal Ecology investigates whether certain conditions might allow farmers to exploit this response to reduce insecticides and increase productivity.

“The option of increasing productivity based on the compensatory plant response could open the door to a decrease in insecticide use. It could be a sustainable way to produce food based on a plant’s natural response to herbivory,” said Katja Poveda, assistant professor of entomology and the paper’s lead author.

Read more at Cornell University

Image: Damage caused by the potato tuber moth.

CREDIT: Katja Poveda