The researchers edited the genes of a mustard plant so that it could grow quickly without sacrificing its defense to bugs.
Those two qualities were mutually exclusive, for reasons scientists don’t quite understand, making it difficult to grow a plant that was both big and able to defend against insects.
Gregg Howe is the lead author on the study. He said if researchers can replicate the work in other plants the implications are huge.
“Farmers could grow plants at higher density without having to treat with pesticides.”
Howe said the next step will be to see if they can extend this method to other plants.
And, he said, they’ll have to see if there is a trade off when this plant meets the pressures of life outside the lab.