Legislators on Maine's Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation Committee back legislation directing the University of Maine to study a potato developed by a Chelsea backyard gardener that appears to be toxic to the Colorado potato beetle.
The beetle can decimate potato crops, tomatoes and eggplants. Proponents say if the research shows the potato can replace pesticides, it could save $200 an acre for potato farmers.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources says the study would require an appropriation of $5,000 in fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11 to conduct the study. The department estimates it will take three years in clean up and propagation and five years in trials for a total of eight years to complete the project at a total cost of $40,000.