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USU Researcher Studies Drought-Tolerant Plants With An Added Benefit

Spider Mites are pests that live on the leaves of plants and crops that can cause damage.

We are aware that climate change has ushered in an era of more frequent and extreme droughts, which constrain agricultural water supplies and stress crops. In response, agricultural companies have been developing many varieties of drought-tolerant corn and other plants. These drought-tolerant plants may come with an added benefit, resistance to mites and other pests. 

Multiple species of spider mites are common pests on crops such as corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, fruits, and vegetables. Dr. Ramirez and his lab discovered that plants that are bred and sometimes biologically engineered to resist drought; can also fend off mites. 

They looked at three different varieties of corn. One of these was transgenic corn that expressed a bacterial cold shock protein that was hopefully going to provide drought resistance-and it does.

The findings from the Ramirez lab were surprising. Mite population responses were similar for tolerant and susceptible plants undergoing optimal irrigation. But when water was held back, simulating a drought, mite populations were reduced on all of the different corn tolerant varieties.

Today's topic comes from an Entomology Today newsletter, brought to you by the Entomological Society of America. It's about research conducted by one of my colleagues Dr. Ricardo Ramirez, who's also a USU extension entomologist, and associate professor in biology, as well as the graduate students and employees in his lab.