Key Content Areas: Biotic-Abiotic Interactions, Agriculture, Food Production, Scientific Inquiry, Evolution, Natural Variation, Unity and Diversity, Climate Change
Contributors: T. Fleming, M. Kitchen, V. Tzin, B. Sims, G. Jander
Grade Levels: 7-12; Undergraduate
Time Needed: 240 minutes; 4-5 weeks
Plant scientists would like to identify varieties of corn that can withstand damage from the Beet Armyworm, a major agricultural pest for many crops, better than other varieties, and are working to understand how this occurs. Because of a high degree of diversity within the corn species, there is potential for traditional or genetic breeding to produce varieties with natural resistance to insect damage. Farmers across the globe rely on pesticides to protect crop yield from insects, and natural genetic diversity and plant breeding could help reduce this need. Disruptions in climate patterns could increase the range of pests like the Beet Armyworm, making now an important time to be collecting data about natural resistance. In this project-based learning lab, classrooms grow different lines of (provided) corn seeds, apply beet armyworms to the plants, and measure the damage caused by the insects to identify lines that may have natural resistance. Classrooms report their data back to the Jander Lab, contributing to the data collection for this research project.
Links will open in a new window or download as a PDF. Contact us for editable versions of these files to customize for your classroom.
Full Manual (includes all files except data sheet and image, as follows)
ImageJ Practice Caterpillar Image
Beet Armyworm – Maize Data Sheet
Pre- and Postlab Resources
Maize Research and Resources
Panzea: The Maize Diversity Project
A group of scientists working on an NSF-funded project called “Biology of Rare Alleles in Maize and Its Wild Relatives.” With links to data and education/outreach efforts.
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
Collaborates with national agricultural research institutions, nongovernment and community-based organizations, seed sector organizations, regional research networks, other CGIAR centers, private companies, and advanced research institutions to tackle maize production on a global scale by providing farmers the best seed, agronomy, and information needed to increase yields.
2015 US Corn Report
Crop progress, supply and demand, historical information
University of Florida
Fact sheet on Beet armyworm, three good photos of developmental stages
Plant Resistance against Herbivory (article)
Apparency, structural defenses, chemical defenses, glossary of terms
An Overview of Plant Defenses against Pathogens and Herbivores (article)
Plant disease and resistance, structural defenses, chemical defenses, proteins and enzymes, additional plant defenses