URBANA, Ill. – Farmers are stuck. Western corn rootworm can destroy cornfields – and profits – but populations of the “billion-dollar bug” have stopped responding to insecticides and the genetically modified corn hybrids designed to resist insect attacks. But there may be hope. In a new study, University of Illinois researchers uncover the genetic basis of resistance to western corn rootworm, paving the way for development of non-GM corn hybrids that can withstand the worm. “Our previous research showed that there is no inherent resistance in the elite hybrids grown by most farmers in the Midwest,” says Martin Bohn, corn breeder in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I. “We want to improve native resistance to western corn rootworm in maize, without using transgenics.” The work was done within the context of a large, longstanding project called Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM), which aims to diversify the tools available to corn breeders by tapping the genetic resources of maize accessions from all over the world. “Some of my colleagues look into lines that yield more, some look into nutritional characteristics. We were screening for insect resistance. There were not that many, but we found some. We had to… Read full this story
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