Biotech sweet corn goes unblemished
“An earworm beneath the husk is unacceptable in the fresh produce market, and for this reason sweet corn is intensively sprayed for insect pests which feed directly on the ears,” Shelton said. “We are looking for alternatives to spraying, which could benefit growers, consumers and the environment. Consumers should know that the Bt protein present in Bt sweet corn is essentially the same as that which organic growers have been spraying on crops for decades. Same protein, but a much better delivery system in Bt plants.”
According to Shelton, there is an urgent need for new and safer management technologies because the corn earworm is arriving earlier and in higher numbers into the northern United States, where much of the nation’s processing and fresh market sweet corn is grown. The authors predict that growers could realize increased profits because of lower inputs and higher marketability, while conserving populations of beneficial insects that keep damaging pests at bay.
This research was partially supported by federal Hatch and Smith-Lever funds, the agricultural experiment stations of the participating states and a New York State Specialty Crop grant.
By Amanda Garris, Ph.D. ’04, communications officer for the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.