BATON ROUGE – An international collection of entomologists, plant breeders, molecular biologists and plant pathologists met in Baton Rouge this week for a workshop on insect-resistant plants.
They came to this 16th biennial meeting March 21-24 to discuss how to develop plants that insects won’t damage, according to Dr. Mike Stout, an entomologist with the LSU AgCenter, who helped to organize the event.
The workshop attracted more than 70 scientists from U.S. universities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and schools and laboratories in Canada, France, South Africa and Australia.
Stout said researchers use both traditional plant breeding techniques and newer genetic engineering procedures to create plants that insects won’t bother.
For example, Stout said Louisiana rice researchers are looking at ways to create resistance to the rice stink bug and the rice water weevil.
"The process starts with screening hundreds of plants to find those that show some insect resistance," Stout said. "We have some beginnings."
Dr. Bill White, an entomologist with the USDA’s Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma, said USDA and LSU AgCenter sugarcane researchers are looking for resistance to the sugarcane borer and to the Mexican rice borer, which is moving toward Louisiana from Texas and threatens Louisiana’s rice and sugarcane crops.
"We can’t develop total resistance," White said, adding that researchers are interested in identifying economic thresholds of insect damage.
"It fits in with the trend in integrated pest management," White said.
"Growers can use plant resistance as a management tool," Stout said. "We’re also looking at the interaction between plants and insects. Each insect-plant interaction is unique."
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture