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Injured Cotton Alarms
2005-10-11 00:00



Plants, like humans, also have emotions, and they would alarm others in the vicinity for protection when getting hurt, discovered a research team headed by Prof. GAO Xiwu at the Chinese University of Agriculture.


Researchers found that when bitten by cotton bolls or injured by mechanicals, cotton would raise the activity of two kinds of proteins. The increased activity can stimulate cotton plants to send out sophisticated chemicals. The volatile chemicals emitted by cotton, including green leave volatiles, terpene, and oxalic acid, usually can affect insects' eating and digesting functions.


In a further study, researchers placed two cotton seedlings in a sealed glass container. Only one of the seedlings is treated for insect bites and mechanical injury. Analysis of two seedlings and internal air of the container turned out a confusing phenomenon: not only the injured seedling reacts with self-defense, but also the uninjured one. A quantitative analysis of the injured plant at an interval of 24-hour, 48-hour, and 72-hour show that the uninjured seedling reacts with self-defense chemicals more concentrated than the injured. The same experiment was repeated for three times with the same results. 


In the next phase, researchers will analyze the sophisticated chemicals emitted by the injured plant. Current research results show that a cotton seedling would emit somewhat different compositions of chemicals at differed levels, to match bites or injuries caused by different insects or machines. Researchers attempt to find out communication codes between plants, as they believe differences in plant's reactions may carry coded messages for other plants.

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