The international research team identified a key receptor binding a chemical called β-aminobutyric acid, or BABA, which boosts plant immunity. The team found that the receptor, which belongs to a class of enzymes crucial to cell metabolism, was also linked to a plants immune system. When BABA links to the receptor protein, it ‘primes’ the immune response of the plant. Unfortunately, in addition to boosting immunity, BABA also stemmed the growth of the plant.
UWA Research Associate Dr Oliver Berkowitz said that the study had uncovered a way to stop this undesirable side effect from occurring.
This has implications for the sustainability of plant protections, since plants primed by BABA require less fungicide. It also makes plants more durable, since BABA also boosts ‘multi-genic’ immunity, which is much more difficult for pathogens to bypass.
The team hopes that with proper investment, they will be able to extend their research into consumer crops to boost immunity and sustainability of global agricultural resources.