Ghent University researchers discover bio-vaccine for plants

Bio-engineers have succeeded in protecting wheat and rice from illnesses thanks to green leaf volatiles similar to those given off by freshly cut gas, the University of Ghent reported.

The scientists, who are from the university’s Faculty of Bio-engineering, found that the substances, produced by the plants themselves, increased their resistance. They have described their discovery as a “a type of vaccination for plants”.

“Freshly cut grass gives off a specific smell,” explains researcher Maarten Ameye. “This odour comes from the substance that a plant produces when attacked, for example by an insect or a lawnmower. By spreading it, the plant informs its neighbours that they are threatened by danger.”

These substances can also make the plants more resistant. “We’ve observed that wheat and rice show greater resistance to certain illnesses when exposed to these volatile substances,” added Ameye, who feels the results of the research are an important step towards an innovative, sustainable solution for protecting crops.

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