And if they’re using this on GM cotton, we should be able to give palpitations to every Luddite in the country!
Keeping moths away from cotton is typically seen as a good thing. But the United States Department of Agriculture has other ideas. In a pilot program, they’re using drones to drop thousands of lab-grown pink bollworm moths directly onto the cotton fields.
Drones are a cheaper delivery method than the manual throw-moths-out-of-a-small airplane method that has been used in the past, so if the tests continue to go well, you might be seeing more moths flying out of drones in the future.
But why bomb cotton fields with moths? Pink bollworms are a notorious cotton pest. Once they start eating their way through the seeds and fibers, they reduce the quality of the cotton dramatically. So the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service came up with a plan. If they raised pink bollworms in a lab, dyed them red to make them identifiable, and then irradiated them to make them sterile they’d have a population that could safely be released into cotton fields. The idea is that if the wild pink bollworms mate with the sterile pink bollworm moths, instead of each other, the sterile moths won’t be able to reproduce, effectively stopping an infestation in its tracks.
If you click through to the article, there’s a wee video at the bottom from the USDA at the bottom.
Truly, I wasn’t kidding about GM cotton. Actually, I’m wearing a pair of sweat pants, right now, that probably are 100% GM cotton. Hasn’t turned my butt glow-in-the-dark purple, yet.
DRONE is a scary word for my friends who already have problems with me taking sides in civil wars – while advocating that Uncle Sugar keep our military and political noses out of other nation’s civil wars. Even though we’re talking about a device a half-step above a hobbyist’s RC airplane kit.
And, of course, irradiation is a word that gives night sweats to folks who don’t know a damned thing about half-life. We could end almost all foodborne illness with gamma radiation as part of food processing; but, that’s way too scary for lots of folks. Even though there is absolutely zero scientific evidence of danger. Only an end to spoilage and food poisoning.
5 thoughts on “Drone-mounted cannon fires irradiated moths at crops”
Yolo. Enjoy it, at least.
“During a large-scale, four-year field deployment of this strategy in Arizona, resistance of pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella) to Bt cotton did not increase. A multitactic eradication program that included the release of sterile moths reduced pink bollworm abundance by 99%, while eliminating insecticide sprays against this key invasive pest.” http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v28/n12/full/nbt.1704.html Re: GM (Bt) cotton sweats see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bt_cotton also under controversies: “Bt Cotton responsible for suicides in rain-fed areas, says study” (The Hindu, June 24, 2015) http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bt-cotton-responsible-for-suicides-in-rainfed-areas-says-study/article7337684.ece and “Is Bt or GMO Cotton the Reason for Indian Farmer Suicides” (Monsanto Newsroom) http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/india-farmer-suicides.aspx
Flashback: “Facts versus fears: DDT” http://dwb.unl.edu/Teacher/NSF/C06/C06Links/www.altgreen.com.au/Chemicals/ddt.html
Always heartwarming to see newspapers in other nations are as likely as the American flavour to insert crappy, contradictory headlines atop articles which conclude something very different.
Apparently the report referred to in the June 24th Hindu article is “Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields, and suicides”, (published June 17th, 2015) Abstract and full text http://www.enveurope.com/content/27/1/12 In any case the number of farmer suicides in India has become a political issue – see for instance http://news.niticentral.com/2015/10/09/months-after-karnataka-farmer-suicides-rahul-finds-time-to-deliver-homilies/ For background: “India farmers’ ‘seeds of suicide’: 200-year old story behind a modern tragedy” and related stories @ http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/10/07/india-farmers-seeds-of-suicide-200-year-old-story-behind-a-modern-tragedy/ According to Wikipedia: “Various reasons have been offered to explain why farmers commit suicide in India, including: drought, debt, use of genetically modified seed, public health and government economic policies. There is no consensus.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmers'_suicides_in_India See also “The GMO-Suicide Myth” (Issues in Science and Technology, winter 2014) http://issues.org/30-2/keith/ Also, as Wiki notes, “Farmers suicide is a global phenomenon. Outside India, studies in Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, England and Australia have identified farming as a high stress profession that is associated with a higher suicide rate than the general population. This is particularly true among small scale farmers and after periods of economic distress.”