Not So Pesky Pests May Help Crops

Oct 11, 2012

A new study shows bugs might not always be a bad thing for farmers. It’s possible some pests could ultimately do more good than harm to crops across the region by helping them pull through hardships like this year’s drought. Western Illinois University biologist Richard Musser found the saliva of hornworms can turn on frost and drought resistant genes in plants. He says that could have big implications for the agricultural community.

"We can figure out what's really involved in protecting plants from those drought responses  (turn on those drought responses earlier) that plant may be able to deal with less water."

- biologist Richard Musser

Musser’s findings will be published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology this month. His latest study is a follow up to an earlier discovery that some plants – including tomatoes – will actually call for help when attacked by herbivores such as caterpillars.

Illinois Public Radio's James Needham contributed to this report.