14 September 2009

Plants Use Scents, Odors and Chemicals in Self-Defense

On October 22, the research program PlantCom Mistra, hosts an international symposium dealing with plant chemical communications and how using this information can be applied to pest management and plant breeding strategies.

The symposium will be of highest scientific caliber with invited guest speakers from Germany, Denmark and England.

“There are many reasons why we are organizing this symposium. Firstly, we want to talk about what we are doing in PlantComMistra, but we also want to learn more ourselves about the work of others. There is no way for all of us to travel to different international meetings around the globe. Therefore, we are arranging this gathering in Alnarp (Alnarp is a village in Sweden where the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has a campus)," says Lisbeth Jonsson, program manager for PlantComMistra.

The symposium is held in conjunction with Partnerskap Alnarp (The Alnarp Partnership)  and concerns issues surrounding how best to use vegetation´s own defense mechanisms in pest management and plant breeding. Plants produce scents, namely airborne substances that humans, in some cases, can perceive. However, many substances emanating from plants can only be perceived by, for example, insects that search for suitable host plants or ladybugs searching for places where their prey might reside.

New status as a plant hormone
Plants can detect and react to certain airborne substances. Ethylene is an example. It is a gaseous plant hormone that had been discovered at the beginning of last century. In recent years, two additional air-borne plant substances have acquired the status of plant hormone: methyl jasmonate  and methyl salicylate. Both of these fragrances cause reactions and changes within the plants, assisting them in their self defense.

Highlighted topics in the symposium on October 22 include:

  • Plant´ defense reactions induced by the scent of other plants, by disease attacks and attacks from aphids.
  • The application of knowledge including mixing varieties.
  • The use of signal substances, in fields, increasing attraction to natural enemies
  • Resistance breeding.

As the exemplar plant is barley, the day will be concluded by a plant breeder´s stories regarding his methods, for grain processing and his future goals.

“If 50 people show up in Alnarp, we will be pleased, however, it is difficult to assess how much interest there is," states Lisbeth Jonsson.

Mistra Mistra