By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
Although wheat is a staple crop that provides a fifth of the world population’s caloric and human protein intake and is essential for human and livestock diets, these plants are continuously preyed upon by insects that feed on it and cause significant losses in yield.
In addition, the gradual increase in global temperatures has promoted the expansion of pest populations to new regions as well as their reproduction rate.
“It is of the utmost importance to rigorously explore natural plant defense mechanisms and traits that we could breed back into cultivated wheat to protect them against insects, instead of using harmful pesticides, which do not even work that well,” said Prof.
A most serious threat to wheat are aphids – tiny bugs that suck out the wheat’s nutrients and introduce deadly plant viruses. There are about 5,000 different species of aphids all over the world, and the bird cherry-oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi, which is not a bird) is one of the world’s most destructive insect pests against wheat production.
HARVESTING WHEAT in a field near Rehovot. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
To reduce aphid damage, wheat plants have evolved various chemical and physical defense mechanisms. Although these mechanisms have been frequently reported, much less is known about their effectiveness.
Tzin, who studies the wild emmer wheat that has long been found in the Fertile Crescent and is a progenitor of both durum (pasta) and bread wheat, discovered that wild wheat has at least two defense methods against insect pests.Click here to see more...