Tuber moths, long a bane of potato growers, may actually hold the potential to increase yields.
Cornell University entomologist Jennifer Thaler led a multidisciplinary team to the Andes, where they learned how tuber moth infestations may actually boost yields to twice the normal, according to a news release.
The plants do so by overcompensating to the infestation and ramping up production.
Previous research had identified one Colombian potato variety that responded to moth damage with robust yields.
The group identified a second variety that works as a trap crop, luring the moth away from the main crop.
This push-pull strategy could help farmers harvest larger yields from the same acreage without pesticides, according to the release.
Group members Katja Poveda and Georg Jander have begun a study of the overcompensating potato variety to determine the genetic and physiological factors that boost the plant's growth.
The project received a three-year $498,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.