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Bug-Killing Potato Plants?

q
Querencia May 9, 2009 08:55 PM

Last night I was reading "The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan (2002). Pollan describes a genetically-engineered potato plant that has leaves with a natural toxin so that when potato bugs munch on the leaves they immediately get sick and fall over dead. He wrote that seven years ago and I don't know how long NewLeaf potatoes had been around before that but I got to wondering whether there might be something in the potatoes that could do harm to human potato eaters. So tonight I googled "NewLeaf potato" and found enough material to keep me busy for a week. Apparently Monsanto suppressed, for years, studies showing changes to the intestinal tissues of rats that ate the potatoes. Are people still growing these potatoes? Does anyone here have gardening experience with NewLeaf potatoes? Just curious; my apartment balcony accommodates geraniums but not potatoes.

  1. h
    harrie May 10, 2009 05:54 AM

    No experience with NewLeaf, but with the Monsanto tag, they probably wouldn't get a second look at my house. Just one more reason to get the regular, non-GMO seed taters and just deal with the pests as/if they come up.

    If you really wanted, you could grow some potatoes in a barrel on the balcony (depending on where you live, etc.), and they'd be totally self-contained. Just sayin'....

    1. t
      toastnjam May 10, 2009 09:54 PM

      Agree with Harrie. I'd never knowingly grow something Monsanto "created".

      We've been growing spuds for the last few months and apart from a few holes in the leaves the bugs have left them alone. Garbage cans make great barrels for growing potatoes. Drill a few holes in the bottom and up the sides and away you go.

      1. al b. darned May 11, 2009 12:15 AM

        Years ago I read about "companion planting" where planting certain plants near each other would either help or hurt their respective growth/yields.

        One of the things was to plant horseradish with potatoes to deter potato beetles. I got no bugs, but I don't know if it was due to the horseradish or the fact there were no bugs around.

        1 Reply
        1. re: al b. darned
          h
          harrie May 11, 2009 06:54 AM

          We're big fans of companion planting - the horseradish helped, but we rotate crops so eventually we'd be overrun by horseradish if we used it every year. Alyssum - and other stuff, but alyssum was linked to potatoes in a number of things I read -- planted near potatoes will bring in beneficials -- predatory flying insects in this case I believe -- so we've been using that, and it works okay. I think we end up spraying a mild insecticidal soap at least a couple times each year, though.

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