Diseases Diseases

How Do Plants Use Phytoalexin To Fight Diseases?


Many enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan's film, "The Happening" which revolved around the idea of Mother Nature striking back at humans for being insensitive to nature. The theme of the movie is, in fact, very strong and explains the similar strategy plants use when they fear being attacked by foreign organisms. They release an antimicrobial and this toxins is called phytoalexin.

Just like our bodies produce white blood cells to fight the bacteria, nature has devised this method to help plants effectively respond to a threat to its existence. Each year losses worth millions of dollars are faced by the world agricultural economy with plant diseases and their treatment. The antimicrobial compounds that are released by the plants help them effectively fight the organisms that pose a serious threat to them. This means that phytoalexin is a naturally occurring fighting mechanism is the foremost defense of the plants against these foreign organisms.

Antimicrobial substances have been found effective in fighting and killing the microorganisms that can cause serious harm if left unchecked. Microorganisms like bacteria, protozoan, and fungi can be inhibited by antimicrobial agents. In plants, the antimicrobial agent s called phytoalexin.

It was Manduumller and Bandoumlrger who were responsible for the discovery of these antimicrobial substances in plants that are the primary source of resistance against the diseases microorganisms cause in plants. This also leads to much more frustrated and angry farmers and agricultural economy's stakeholders. The most observable fact of this naturally occurring antimicrobial defense system is that compared to the antibacterial sprays and agricultural compounds normally used to fight these diseases, the antimicrobial phytoalexins are more effective and cause lesser problems for the human health.

Phytoalexin is the consequence of a pathogen that is attached to the plant surface. Once they are detected by the plants they start producing antimicrobial substances that treat foreign organisms that pose threat to the plant just like toxins. They may cause serious damage to the pathogen by puncturing the cell walls, hindering the growth of these microorganisms and also kill them by reducing their chance of attaining maturity.

Plants that demonstrate this type of behavior are usually the higher plants, a characterization that helps botanists and scientists in identifying the plants easily. Higher plants have the potential for developing more powerful and effective antimicrobials. Most plants have a generic way of reacting to the pathogens namely fungi, bacteria and protozoan but some plants are slightly different in this regard. The core reason for any plant reaction to the presence of any pathogen is dependent on the plant's active response which then triggers the metabolic activity within the plant to cause the defensive system to start working.


Phytoalexin is indeed a gift of nature to the farmers who are totally dependent on these crops for their livelihood and survival. These phytoalexins help harvest a better crop, generate a better profit and play their part in an improved agricultural economy.

By Amara, published at 02/27/2012
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