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Pure Appl. Chem., 2001, Vol. 73, No. 8, pp. 1325-1330

Improving self-defense in plants. Martial arts for vegetables

Patrick Moyna1 and Horacio Heinzen2

1 Instituto de Biotecnologia, Universidad de Caxias do Sul, Caxias do Sul, RS, Brazil
2 Facultad de Química, Avda. General Flores 2124, Montevideo, Uruguay

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.