A field trial for genetically modified wheat designed to repel aphids has been approved to continue in England. Rothamsted Research was given approval to plant the GM wheat this autumn for Cadenza wheat.
This GM wheat produces a naturally occurring odor that repels aphids and attracts their natural enemies, including ladybirds and wasps.
Rothamsted Research has been field testing this GM wheat variety and has been growing a spring sown crop this spring in Hertfordshire, which is in its final year of a two-year trial.
Scientists want to test the GM wheat during different season s to gather data on how the aphid populations respond under different weather conditions.
“With the trial up and running, it seems sensible to make this small adjustment,” John Pickett, head of chemical ecology at Rothamsted told Farmers Weekly. “Autumn infestations of aphids are a real problem, too, especially with the varied weather we are having.
“This additional data will add a lot of value to the overall investigation by testing our wheat plant under a more varied range of environmental conditions throughout the year and in accordance with the different times of the year farmers plant their wheat.”
This GM wheat trial gained popular attention last year when anti-GM activists threatened to break into Rothamsted Research and destroy the ongoing trial. They were unsuccessful in destroying the crop.
Scientists involved in the study requested the extension for the research in March. The autumn trial will begin in mid-September and will be destroyed 10 to 12 weeks later in late November or late December, depending on the weather.
This GM wheat is considered a possible way to reduce insecticide use since the variety will repel aphids naturally.