Crop Tech Corner

GMO-Free World Doesn't Look Rosy

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Banning GE crops could drop yields, require millions more acres of cropland, and push food prices up, according to a new Purdue study. (DTN photo by Nick Scalise)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

IMAGINE THERE'S NO ... GMOs.

Three scientists from Purdue University set out to answer a controversial question: What would happen if genetically engineered (GE) crops vanished from the landscape? Their resulting study, funded by the California Grain & Feed Association, came to some stark conclusions. If all GE crops were banned -- a total of 447 million acres across 28 countries, farmed by 18 million farmers -- yields would decline, food prices would rise, and more land would be converted to cropland to make up for the difference, the scientists concluded. According to a Purdue news release, the researchers came to their conclusions by using a Purdue­developed economic modeling system called GTAP-BIO, designed to examine "economic consequences of changes to agricultural, energy, trade and environmental policies." In the U.S. alone, corn yields would fall by 11.2%, soybeans by 5.2%, and cotton by 18.6%, the scientists concluded. They estimated that nearly 250,000 acres of forest and pasture would need to be used for farming to make up the difference in the U.S. Globally, the number of new farmland acres would climb to 2.7 million. The model also estimated that as corn and soybean prices rose due to falling crop yields, food prices would move 1% to 2% higher.

For more information on the study, see the press release here: http://bit.ly/…

KILLING KUDZU BUGS FROM THE INSIDE

Since Kudzu bugs were first discovered in Georgia in 2009, scientists have hoped that naturally occurring predators would be a critical component in controlling the soybean-munching pests. Since 2014, a parasitic wasp called Paratelenomus saccharalis, which lay their eggs within kudzu bug eggs, has proved helpful in slowing the pest's rapid spread. Now, thanks to a Clemson University entomology graduate student, another natural predator has been identified. Francesca Stubbins was dissecting kudzu bugs collected from soybean fields when she found something unusual -- long, slender white worms curled up in the abdomens of some the female bugs. The parasitic worms were mermithid nematodes, known for using insects as hosts for their development from immature stages into adulthood. Stubbins hopes to continue researching the nematodes' effect on kudzu bug populations, along with a fungus found in South Carolina soybean fields in 2015. The fungus, Beauveria bassiana, was found coating insects in the field and researchers believe it may be insecticidal.

For more information on Stubbins' research, see the Clemson University press release here: http://bit.ly/…

SEARCHING WHEAT WIDE AND FAR

Imagine combing through 6,700 haystacks for a needle and coming up short. Would you give up? Not Kansas State University wheat breeder Guorong Zhang.

He is on the hunt for a wheat variety with natural resistance to a damaging wheat disease known as Triticum mosaic virus, or TriMV. According to a news release from the Kansas Wheat Alliance, which is funding his research, Zhang searched through nearly 7,000 lines of wheat germplasm with no success and is now tackling an additional 3,200 lines, mostly from Iran. So far, every wheat variety has proven to be susceptible to the disease, which first surfaced in Kansas fields in 2006 and quickly spread across the Great Plains. The virus tends to team up with another troublesome disease, wheat streak mosaic virus. The two diseases can pillage up to 90% of wheat yields. Researchers and farmers have had no luck with chemical controls, so varietal resistance remains growers' only hope.

For more information on Zhang's research, see the press release here: http://bit.ly/… and the Kansas Wheat Alliance website here: http://kswheatalliance.org/…

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

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Emily Unglesbee