No significant damage was done by vandals to an experimental potato plot at a University of California field station Monday night, UC Berkeley scientists reported Wednesday. The potatoes are being used to study genetically engineered bacteria that are designed to minimize frost damage to crops.
A previously scheduled spraying of the plants with the Ice Minus bacteria was expected to be completed by this morning.
The potatoes were planted April 29 in a one-acre Northern California field outside Tulelake in rural Modoc County. Half the potato eyes were dipped in a solution of the Ice Minus bacteria before planting and half were left untreated.
Sometime between 6 p.m. Monday and Tuesday morning, vandals entered the unfenced, unguarded field and used trowels to dig up about half the 4,000 plants in the field.
The two-inch-high seedlings were replanted by midday Tuesday, according to UC biologist Steve Lindow, and researchers then began their scheduled program of measuring the concentration of the bacteria on the plants, on nearby soil and in the air over the field.
The researchers are trying to find out how well the bacteria establish themselves on the plants and how easily they migrate to untreated plants and outside the field.