Do plants pay a price for evolving with complex defense mechanisms?

January 29th, 2011 - 6:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 29 (ANI): A new study examines whether the production of defense traits against insects and mammals incurs costs to the plants.

University of Zurich together with their American colleagues planted different knockout-mutants of the same genotype of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and then harvested a subset of these plants in evenly distributed intervals to measure the biomass growth over the whole plant life.

“Mutants with suppressed defense mechanisms showed an increased growth rate,” said Tobias Zost.

However, the faster growth comes in exchange of defense mechanisms. Aphids reproduce faster on these plants than on slow growing plants with intact defense mechanisms.

The finding has important implications for agricultural crops. These crops have been selected for high yield and as a consequence have very low natural resistance to herbivores, consequentially requiring high input of insecticides.

The study appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society. (ANI)

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