February 20, 2007


Why is it that when you want red tomatoes
you can only find green and when you want
green there's only red ?

There's a lot more going on with plants that we ordinary mortals know . More than once I've gotten a raised eyebrow when I told clients they'd need a male and female Holly if they wanted red berries. Most folks don't realize that plants have a complex sex life. Human mating rituals have nothing on plants when it comes to methods employed to attract the opposite sex. Flowers will flaunt their petals, exude intoxicating fragrance and even heat to attract pollinators .

A fascinating book by British Naturalist David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS , will leave the reader with a new appreciation of how plants struggle to find food, exploit predators or neighbors, reproduce themselves and establish their place in the world. You'll never look at a flower or plant the same way again.

Scientists have long known that plants have a defense mechanism but they believed it was chemical in nature. I read a recent study coauthored by North Carolina State University Botanist Dr. Eric Davies in which he demonstrated for the first time that when an electrical stimulus is used to injure a tomato leaf, bio-electrical signals are rapidly transmitted from the injured cells to other cells throughout the plant.

What does this mean ? The signals alert the cells to increase their production of naturally occurring pesticides called proteinase inhibitors which boost the plant's resistance to insect feeding. Amazing ! This is an important discovery, but don't try it on your tomatoes just yet.

Dr. Davies says that proving an electrical signal can turn on genes is important because it raises the possibility that we may be able to use electrical stimulation as an environmentally sound means for increasing crop resistance to pests. It also gives new meaning to the term, " One hot tomato ! "

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