KANSAS CITY — Research on bioengineered wheat containing a pheromone known to repel aphids failed to indicate significantly better results warding off the destructive pest compared with conventional wheat varieties. Results of the research conducted in 2012-13 were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Because aphids are a destructive pest that can transmit viruses to wheat plants and decrease crop yields, farmers have typically applied insecticides to control infestations. Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom bioengineered wheat to contain within the plant the pheromone known to repel aphids. But field tests failed to show significant reductions in aphid infestations in the bioengineered wheat compared with conventional wheat lacking the special anti-aphid trait.

“We now know that in order to repel natural aphid populations in the field, we may need to alter the timing of release of the (pheromone) from the plant to mimic more closely that by the aphid, which is a burst of release in response to a threat rather than continuous…This may require altering release rates of alarm pheronome from the plants, but also engineering the wheat plant to release the pheromone only when the aphid arrives,” said John Pickett, a study author.