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Research documents invincible defence mechanisms in plants
by Global Good News staff writer
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22 May 2013
A research study on self-defence mechanisms in plants, conducted in the southern United States by the Max Planck Society, was reported on during a recent conference at Maharishi University of Management in the Netherlands. The group of Maharishi Ayur-Veda* physicians was hearing from Dr Peter Swan, an expert in Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture, about the role of plants (Dravyaguna) in promoting health.
See previous articles in this series:
∙ Netherlands: Doctors' conference considers role of Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture in health
∙ Plants are in charge of their own nutrient production cycle
The study documented how the plants employed innate self-defence mechanisms 'in stages, and as necessary', Dr Swan explained.
Researchers observed that when grasshoppers started to feed on young tobacco plants** growing in the wild, to defend themselves the plants increased nicotine production. The nicotine, being toxic to grasshoppers, drove the pests away and the plants continued to thrive.
Tobacco moths came a little later in the growth cycle to pollinate the plants, but during that time laid their eggs on the leaves. When the eggs hatched and grew into another kind of tobacco pest, being immune to nicotine they stayed on the plant and started to devour the leaves.
Dr Swan went on to describe how the plants then employed a second line of defence, producing fragrances to attract beetles that prey on these particular pests. The beetles came and greatly reduced the pest population, but were not able to eradicate it completely. Those that survived were growing too large for the predator beetles, so as a third line of defence the plants secreted a compound that disturbs the pests' digestion (and thus their growth); as a result they remained small and unable to defend themselves against the predators who were able to clean off the leaves, allowing the plants to thrive.
Besides having the intelligence to defend themselves against a variety of predators, it has been documented recently that plants have the ability to utilize viruses to their advantage. Dr Swan described a study by a Penn State University (USA) virologist that showed the important role viruses play in the health of plants, in that they can make certain plants tolerant to drought, cold, and heat. Tests have been done on rice, tomatoes, squash, and beets.
When researchers 'cured' test plants of the beneficial virus that produced heat tolerance, they discovered the plant was no longer able to withstand heat. When the virus was reintroduced the plant regained the tolerance. The same was found for cold, that the presence of a specific virus generated tolerance to cold. Again, when the plant was 'cured' the tolerance disappeared. These viruses do not damage the plant, Dr Swan said; quite the opposite, they support the health of the plant.
* Ayur-Veda is the world's oldest, most comprehensive system of natural medicine, which originated in the Vedic civilization of ancient India. Maharishi Ayur-Veda is the modern restoration by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the complete, authentic practice of Ayurveda as recorded in the Vedic texts.
** A different variety from those commonly cultivated for commercial use, sometimes used in organic pesticides because of the high nicotine content; also used by some indigenous cultures for traditional purposes.
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