Researchers make plant immunity discovery

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-01-13 13:08

Chinese scientists have discovered how the defense mechanism in plants function and the findings could change the way humans use pesticides, according to researchers.

Chen Xiaoya, the lead researcher of the team at the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that as a plant ages, its pest-resistant capability increases while its immune response weakens.

According to the research findings, a certain type of protein in plants triggers the release of a special kind of hormone which serves as a switch that turns on the immune response of a plant when it is bitten by pests. This response gets weaker when plants grow older.

On the other hand, the pest-resistance capability increases because of the accumulation of insect-resistant compounds over the years.

As such, the amount and types of pesticides sprayed on crops during the different seasons could be changed.

"We don't necessarily need to spray a large amount of pesticide on crops in spring. Instead, we can give them a certain kind of 'vaccine' to spur them to produce more insect-resistant compounds, which function as weapons to fight against pests," said Chen.

The discovery, made after three years of study, was published on the website of the scientific journal Nature Communications on Jan 9.

"Such findings are very interesting as they are quite similar to the immunity system in animals and human beings. Though children's immunity levels are not as high as adults, their immune reactions against illnesses are quicker and more aggressive," said Mao Yingbo, the main author of the paper that details the findings.

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