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How to make plants healthy? Give them a rub

By Tim Sandle     Sep 17, 2013 in Environment
Gently rubbing plants with your fingers can make them less susceptible to diseases like parasitic fungi, according to a new research finding.
Botanists have shown that gently rubbing the leaves of thale cress plants (Arabidsopsis thaliana) between thumb and forefinger activates an innate defense mechanism. The activation of this defense mechanism makes the plants less prone to disease. The disease of concern in relation to the cress plants is Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that causes grey mold.
Botrytis cinerea is a necrotrophic fungus that affects many plant species, although its most notable hosts may be wine grapes. In viticulture, it is commonly known as botrytis bunch rot; in horticulture, it is usually called grey mold or gray mold.
Scientists think that benefits arise due to the way that plants respond to mechanical stress. Plants have a response in relation to strong winds, for example, and responses to mechanical stress lead to changes at the molecular and biochemical level. Aside from the responses to major events, like gales, a gentle stress, such as from rubbing, seems to lead a similar biochemical reaction and plants that experience this reaction seem to be able to combat diseases more effectively.
When the internal functions of the cress were examined it was found that various biologically active molecules that were detected and these are thought to contribute to an immune response. This was supported by laboratory studies involving cress plants and the fungus.
The findings have been published in the journal BMC Plant Biology. The paper is titled “Perception of soft mechanical stress in Arabidopsis leaves activates disease resistance.”
More about Plants, Fungus, Immunity, cress, boost immunity
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