We all know that plants need certain things to survive, such as light, water, air, and nutrients. They also tend to do better when they are not attacked by pests. Usually we try to give plants everything they need, but half of my research plants have not been getting all the water that they need. And to make matters worse, all of the plants also have gotten their very own aphids.
Of course, the drought stress and exposure to pests is intentional. We are examining how increasing genotypic diversity may help growers mitigate stress associated with climate change. In some regions, climate change will lead to more frequent drought conditions, whereas other areas may experience more frequent pest outbreaks. And these stressors will likely occur simultaneously in some areas, posing serious challenges to crop fields.
Bird cherry-oat aphids feeding on drought-stressed wheat
We would like to know if genotypic diversity could provide a pest management benefit. It is also important to understand how diversity might affect pests. Because periods of drought may accompany pest outbreaks, we are also interested in whether the effect of diversity depends on the presence of another stressor, such as drought. Our hope is that by stressing plants now in the greenhouse, we may enhance in the future the ability of crop fields to resist and recover from these stressors.