ScienceDaily (Apr. 3, 2011) — U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have found strains of bacteria that could one day be used as environmentally friendly treatments to keep caterpillars and other pests out of gardens and cultivated fields.
Researchers with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) surveyed the agency's bacterial collection and discovered that strains sharing the ability to produce a particular enzyme survive being fed to caterpillars longer than those that don't. Such survivability makes them better candidates for controlling crop and garden pests. The results, published in Biological Control, support the USDA priorities of agricultural sustainability and promoting international food security.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium now used to control gypsy moths, tent caterpillars, leaf rollers, canker worms and other pests that attack gardens, corn and other crops. But the commonly used strain, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, doesn't survive more than one generation. After an initial round of pests is killed, they die out and the pests return.