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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Dr. Watts Saves the Day

A poem


One day in the fields of his old cotton farm,

Farmer Hillman came running to raise the alarm.

"There are pests in the cotton! A million! There's lots!"

"Don't worry," his son said. "Let's call Dr. Watts."


Dr. Watts took one look at the cotton and smiled.

"We can fix this," he said to the farmer and child.

"These insects like eating your cotton," he said.

"Let's find predators who will eat them instead."


So they made a collection of all they could find,

Every wasp, mite, and beetle—and bugs of that kind.

"To the lab!" Dr. Watts cried. "Let's look for a mite

(Or a wasp or a beetle) to help in our fight."


In the lab he took all of the insects and squished

Them and left them to sit on a strange kind of dish.

"This step is the first," he told Hillman. "Now wait.

In the bug guts are proteins. They'll stick to the plate."


"Step two," he said, tossing the bugs in a bin,

"Is to add a protein to this plate. If within

All these guts there are pests, then the protein will stick,

And we'll know they are there. Isn't that a neat trick?"


Then he added an enzyme (this part was step three)

Which could only attach to the antibody

Of the pest in the fields. If it stuck, then they'd know

That the bug on the plate was a cotton pest foe.


To see if it stuck, Dr. Watts did step four,

And he added one thing to the protein-gut gore:

A catalyst (something that causes a change).

So they looked at the plate and they saw something strange.


A color reaction! It was a success!

The insects could help them get rid of the pests!

They bought all the bugs that the test had revealed,

Putting them on the plants in the old cotton field.

All the pest-eating bugs saved the cotton, thanks to

Dr. Watts, who knew Science. And now you know, too.


By Laura McGinnis, Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff




Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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