Hairy potato

A NEW variety of potato has its own armour against pests and does not need a helping hand from insecticides. Its armour of hair traps and kills insects trying to feed on it (Ceres, Vol 25, No 2).

The hairy potato marks the first success for plant breeders trying to produce an edible, insect-resistant potato variety. They did it by crossing the common, bald species with one of its wild cousins.

The hair trap on the new potato variety can protect it from a host of invaders, including mealybugs and Colorado potato beetle. Experts at the International Potato Centre in Peru and Cornell University in New York developed the hirsute tuber and contend that in the developing world alone, it can save much of the $300 million now being spent annually on insecticides.