Beet Armyworm Invasion—Breeding Better Plants with Natural Diversity
BTI will present at the Cornell Science Sampler Series, hosted by the Cornell Center for Materials Research. This day-long workshop for middle and high school educators is a collaborative effort to provide teacher professional development in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Farmers across the globe rely on pesticides to protect crop yield from insects, yet natural genetic diversity and plant breeding could help reduce this need.
In this workshop, teachers will learn about the latest research in plant responses to insect damage, and how a citizen science classroom lab activity can be used to explore plant-insect interactions, biodiversity, plant breeding, research methods, and more. Plant scientists would like to identify varieties of corn that can withstand damage from the Beet Armyworm (Spodoptera exigua), 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. 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.