Insect or virus? How plants know

phys.org | 7/26/2018 | Staff
Mandyixus (Posted by) Level 3
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Most plants have plenty of enemies, from insects and other grazing creatures to various diseases, droughts and many other stressors.

As with humans, plants respond to injuries or illnesses by initiating various defense measures. But a viral infection requires a completely different response than desiccation, of course.

Attacker - Cell - Signals - Way - Senses

To know more about its attacker, the cell relies on mechanical and chemical signals, much in the same way that we use our senses to figure out what we might be willing to eat in an exotic restaurant. Smell and taste are chemical cues, the structure of food is a mechanical cue.

Humans respond appropriately to what their senses tell them because they have dedicated structures that allow both simple responses (reflexes) and more complex ones (fight or flight), both of which are controlled by a unifying and coordinating centers (the brain).

Brainless - Plants

So how do brainless plants defend themselves appropriately?

The answers to this question may be especially important as scientists develop new varieties of food crops like rice and maize. The research has great potential value, both financially and in meeting the food needs of an ever-growing human population. Corn accounts for around 40 percent of the world's grain supply. Rice is the main food source for about half of the world's population.

Review - Article - Nature - Plants - Answers

A review article recently published in Nature Plants provides some of the answers to this question.

Thorsten Hamann is a professor at NTNU's Department of Biology and was the senior author of the publication. He and several colleagues are working with a plant called thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). This small flowering plant is widely used in research as what is called a model organism.

Model - Organism - Cress - Plant - Research

A model organism like thale cress is used in plant research because many of its properties are considered to be more or less representative of food and bioenergy crop plants, such as rice,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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