How plants fight to stay alive

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Mike Newland writes: Compared to the hectic rush of our bipedal world, a plant’s life may appear an oasis of tranquility. But look a little closer. The voracious appetites of pests put plants under constant stress: They have to fight just to stay alive.

And fight they do. Far from being passive victims, plants have evolved potent defenses: chemical compounds that serve as toxins, signal an escalating attack, and solicit help from unlikely allies.

However, all of this security comes at a cost: energy and other resources that plants could otherwise use for growth and repair. So to balance the budget, plants have to be selective about how and when to deploy their chemical arsenal. Here are five tactics they’ve developed to ward off their insect foes without sacrificing their own wellbeing. [Continue reading…]

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