Whiteflies are one of the top ten devastating pests in the world that damage more than 2000 plant species and also function as vectors for some 200-plant viruses. Cotton is one of the worst-hit crops by these, in 2015 two-third of the cotton crop was destroyed by the pest in Punjab. In a move to fight against whiteflies National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) Lucknow has developed a pest-resistant variety of cotton and is going to start field trials this year from April to October in Faridkot Center of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana.
As Bt cotton is also a genetically modified cotton and present in the market for farmer’s usage then why this variety was needed. Answering to this senior scientist, Dr PK Singh from NBRI told, “Bt cotton is resistant to two pests only it is not resistant against white flies. In 2007 we decided to work on one more insect pest- whiteflies. It not only damages cotton but many other crops too with this it transmits disease viruses too.”
To develop the pest-resistant variety researchers explored 250 plants from lower plant biodiversity to identify novel protein molecules that are toxic to whitefly. “Leaf extract of all the plants were prepared separately, and whiteflies were allowed to feed on them. Out of the 250 plants, the leaf extract of an edible fern Tectaria macrodonta causes toxicity to the whitefly” said Dr Singh.