Plants Fight Back: an article for post-16 students


One of a series of three articles written specifically for post-16 biology students, this resource introduces students to some of the complexities of how plants react to pests and disease. The resource can be used either as a homework for the whole class, or to challenge individual students to think more deeply about some of the material they have learnt so far.

When a pest or disease attacks a plant, a slow-motion battle begins. Within minutes of the attack, plant cells on the front line switch on defence-related genes that make those cells more toxic to assailants and also physically stronger – more difficult for a disease to penetrate or a herbivore to chew. During the next few days, similar changes occur throughout the plant and boost resistance even in undamaged leaves, shoots and roots. Now researchers are discovering how warning signals in the plant coordinate these responses, and how manipulating these signals could induce crops to fight pests and diseases more vigorously.

This article for post-16 students is written by science writer and New Scientist journalist Stephen Day.

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