Improving self-defense in plants. Martial arts for vegetables*
Patrick Moyna1, and Horacio Heinzen2
1Instituto de Biotecnologia, Universidad de Caxias
do Sul, Caxias do Sul, RS, Brazil; 2Facultad de Química, Avda.
General Flores 2124, Montevideo, Uruguay
Abstract: From the dawn of agriculture there has been an ever-intensifying
human effort to improve yields by having crops with enhanced biological
similarity (i.e., characteristics of product, maturation time, height,
color, etc.). The ultimate stage is to plant a crop where all individuals
behave in exactly the same way, being clones of each other. This very
intensive approach leads to loss of intrapopulation biodiversity and
to unstable systems, prone to disastrous losses should anything go wrong.
Biological evolutionary success is usually derived from high adaptability
to ever-changing external conditions. Highly specialized plants (such
as certain orchids) or animals survive by correctly performing a high-wire
act of enormous risk. External disbalances have catastrophic results
on these species. Nature excels and corrects imbalances increased biodiversity
within natural populations. Given this situation, we should study the
defensive systems used by plants and improve on those natural systems.
*Lecture presented at the IUPAC CHEMRAWN XIV Conference
on Green Chemistry:Toward Environmentally Benign Processes and Products,
Boulder,Colorado, USA, 9-13 June 2001. Other presentations are published
in this issue, pp.1229 1330.
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