Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Plants can grow quickly or ward off hungry insects, but not both

Date:
March 27, 2010
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
There's a war occurring each day in our backyards -- plant versus plant-eating insect versus insect-eating insect. Research suggests the outcome -- of interest to farmers -- is a stalemate.

Plant-eating insects such as this silhouetted caterpillar have played a pivotal role in the evolution of plants.
Credit: Photo by Ellen Woods, Cornell University

There's a war occurring each day in our backyards -- plant versus plant-eating insect versus insect-eating insect. Research by UC Irvine's Kailen Mooney suggests the outcome -- of interest to farmers -- is a stalemate.

For a study published online on March 26, in the journal Science, Mooney and colleagues studied 16 species of milkweed, a group of flowering plants found throughout the Western hemisphere.

The scientists sought to determine the relationship among plant growth, how plants defend themselves against plant-eaters (with thorns and toxins, for example), and the protection plants receive from predators such as ladybugs that eat plant-hungry insects. The herbivores -- in this case bright yellow aphids -- damage plants; ladybugs can act as bodyguards, helping plants by eating aphids.

The researchers asked: Can plants have it all? Can they grow quickly and defend themselves against herbivores while at the same time solicit protection from ladybugs and other bodyguards?

The answer: No.

Milkweed species that grow quickly (a desirable trait) are more vulnerable to insects that feed on them (an undesirable trait), making those plants more dependent upon predators for their survival. In other words, you can be either a hard-to-eat, slow growing plant that doesn't need bodyguards, or a tasty, fast-growing plant that relies on outside protection.

The finding could be important to farmers trying to develop herbivore-proof, fast-growing crops, and it betters our understanding of how the natural world works.

"We can breed plants to for fast growth, but if we do that, it appears we're weakening the plants' immunity against herbivores, making them more dependent upon protection from potentially unreliable predators," says Mooney, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology.

And there may not be much that farmers can do.

"Milkweed has been evolving for as many as 20 million years. Natural selection favors faster-growing plants and those that easily fight off insects," Mooney says. "If nature hasn't found a way to combine both, perhaps it's something that cannot be done."

Cornell University scientists Rayko Halitschke, Andre Kessler and Anurag Agrawal also worked on this study, funded in part by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Plants can grow quickly or ward off hungry insects, but not both." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100325143051.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2010, March 27). Plants can grow quickly or ward off hungry insects, but not both. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100325143051.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Plants can grow quickly or ward off hungry insects, but not both." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100325143051.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Xtreme Eating: Your Daily Caloric Intake All On One Plate

Newsy (July 30, 2014) The Center for Science in the Public Interest released its 2014 list of single meals with whopping calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins