Bug Blog

Insect Pests Soon To Become Insect Allies

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has traditionally been a United States agency concerned with military advancements in technology. However, during the last several decades DARPA has been tackling non-military threats to humanity. One such project currently underway has to do with alternate methods of preserving and protecting important plants from falling victim to insect pests.

The life of your typical plant is a hard life. Plants are continuously under attack from different types of fungi, pests, pollution, flooding, and perhaps most damaging of all–viruses. Some of the most essential plant life on which humans are dependent for sustenance and a balanced ecosystem could potentially disappear in a short time given the host of modern threats to our world’s crops.

In an effort to find a novel and supremely effective method of protecting our plant life, DARPA has turned to plant eating insect pests to help preserve precious farmland. WHAT! How could insect pests be the answer to the problem of crop devastation?

Insect pests transmit viruses to mature plants of all sorts. However, scientists are now able to use insect-pests to transfer modified and protective genes to various endangered plants. Therefore, instead of allowing insect pests to transmit deadly viruses to plants, scientists will be able to modify the genes of viruses that are carried by insect-pests. In other words, instead of allowing insect-pests to destroy plants, scientists are creating viruses with genes that protect plants, and these protective genes will be unwittingly transmitted by the very pests that once threatened the lives of various plants. If this method turns out to be a success, then it may replace all other methods to protect plants from devastating insect-pests.

Although this method may work to protect plants from insect-borne viruses, what methods can be employed to protect plants from the various other threats that they are exposed to. Such as fungi, or pollution?