When the kudzu bug (Megacopta cribraria) was first discovered in the southeastern U.S. in 2009, it received an ambiguous welcome. As its name implies, it feeds on kudzu, an invasive, viney weed that smothers other plants, so it was believed that it could possibly used as a biological control agent to help manage kudzu vines. However, it also feeds on soybeans and other legumes, and the bug’s invasion has led to crop losses of almost 20 percent in states like Georgia and South Carolina. In addition, kudzu bugs sometimes invade homes and other structures in large numbers.
Now researchers from the University of Georgia may have some good news, at least for soybean growers. The team found that some wild relatives of soybeans have developed a defense mechanism that limits the ability of kudzu bugs nymphs to survive. The next step, the say, is to identify which gene gives the plants this defense mechanism. Once identified, the gene may be used to develop soybean plants that are also resistant to kudzu bugs.
“Elucidation of the genetic control of this resistance should make it easier to deploy it in breeding programs, or even to enhance it by pyramiding these genes with transgenes,” they wrote in an article appearing in Crop Science.
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