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Chemicals That Make Plants Defend Themselves Could Replace Pesticides – Elsevier (2015)

Chemical triggers that make plants defend themselves against insects could replace pesticides, causing less damage to the environment. New research… identifies five chemicals that trigger rice plants to fend off a common pest – the white-backed planthopper, Sogatella furcifera


Pesticides are used around the world to control insects that destroy crops… One of the problems with many pesticides is that they kill indiscriminately. For rice plants, this means pesticides kill the natural enemies of one of their biggest pests, the white-backed planthopper… This pest… causes the plants to wilt and can damage the grains. It also transmits a virus disease… which stunts the plants’ growth and stops them from “heading,” which is when pollination occurs.


Left untreated, many of the insects’ eggs would be eaten, but when pesticides are used these hatch, leading to even more insects on the plants. What’s more, in some areas as many as a third of the planthoppers are resistant to pesticides… “Therefore, developing safe and effective methods to control insect pests is highly desired”… 


Because of the problems of using pesticides, it’s vital to find new solutions to help protect rice plants from infestation. Plants have natural self-defense mechanisms that kick in when they are infested with pests like the planthopper. This defense mechanism can be switched on using chemicals that do not harm the environment and are not toxic to the insects or their natural enemies… 


Researchers… developed a new way of identifying these chemicals. Using a specially designed screening system, they determined to what extent different chemicals switched on the plants’ defense mechanism… The researchers used bioassays to show that these chemicals could trigger the plant defense mechanism and repel the white-backed planthopper. This suggests that these chemicals have the potential to be used in insect pest management… 


“This new approach to pest management could help protect the ecosystem while defending important crops against attack.”

The next step for the research will be to explore how effective the chemicals are at boosting the plants’ defenses and controlling planthoppers in the field.




Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2015.10.041


Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.elsevier.com

Its good to see more research in these areas – but it would be good if in parallel we looked at potential impact of activated and elevated triggers and response  in terms of ecosystems and human health.  Multi-systemic approaches are going to be increasingly needed, which is worrying given how limited funding in this area already is..

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