Rewriting Life

Pest Test

A bacterial protein called Bt toxin makes a safe and effective pesticide. But Bt-proof bugs could render the agricultural resource useless. So researchers at North Carolina State University are helping to develop a test kit that gives farmers early warning of Bt resistance, allowing them to give the affected area a break from Bt before a “super pest” emerges.

NC State entomologist R. Michael Roe calls the testing technique “embarrassingly simple” -a farmer merely adds water and a bit of Bt to wells in a cellular-phone-sized container, then drops in a few bugs from the field. Each well holds insect food mixed with an indicator dye that turns bug feces blue. Bt-susceptible pests sickened by the toxin don’t eat-and therefore don’t defecate. But resistant bugs produce blue droppings-a quick, colorful warning for the farmer, who would otherwise have to wait a week or so for the insects to die. A large-scale field study of the test kit, sponsored by Cotton Inc., should be completed this spring.

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.