Tomato-Plant Security

I have a soft spot for interesting biological security measures, especially by plants. I've used them as examples in several of my books. Here's a new one: when tomato plants are attacked by caterpillars, they release a chemical that turns the caterpillars on each other:

It's common for caterpillars to eat each other when they're stressed out by the lack of food. (We've all been there.) But why would they start eating each other when the plant food is right in front of them? Answer: because of devious behavior control by plants.

When plants are attacked (read: eaten) they make themselves more toxic by activating a chemical called methyl jasmonate. Scientists sprayed tomato plants with methyl jasmonate to kick off these responses, then unleashed caterpillars on them.

Compared to an untreated plant, a high-dose plant had five times as much plant left behind because the caterpillars were turning on each other instead. The caterpillars on a treated tomato plant ate twice as many other caterpillars than the ones on a control plant.

Posted on July 13, 2017 at 6:06 AM • 21 Comments

Comments

Bob PaddockJuly 13, 2017 7:17 AM

Tomatoes, as well as Potatoes, Eggplant, some Peppers, Go Jo Berries and MANY other species of plants are a member of the Nightshade family that is a subset of the Solanaceae plant family.

Nightshades can mimic the symptoms of Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis in people that are sensitive to them. They are common in our diets and most people don't connect the food they are eating to those disease symptoms.

A food sensitivity is different than a food allergy. With a food sensitivity the reaction may not appear for up to four days after the reactive food was consumed. A Food Journal is the only simple way to figure out such sensitivities. Cleaning up one's diet often removes the symptoms of otherwise 'incurable diseases'

Some Native Indians considered the Tomato to be a poisonous plant long ago. They may have been correct...

One of MANY sites on the dangers of Nightshades:

https://draxe.com/nightshade-vegetables/

WaelJuly 13, 2017 9:26 AM

Arrrgh...

Scientists sprayed tomato plants with methyl jasmonate to kick off these responses, then unleashed caterpillars on them.

Of course scientists can't stop there! They should spray methyl jasmonate on ISIS. Oh, wait... looks like they've already done that except that there was some collateral damage, and everyone in the Middle East ingested some methyl jasmonate!

Methyl jasmonate coming to a water tank (or a tomatoes juice cup) near you. You have been cautioned!

JG4July 13, 2017 9:45 AM


a nice analogy in the natural products/pharma sector

http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2017/07/11/natural-products-always-coming-back
...
There’s also the “cryptic natural product” idea that came up around here again just recently – inducing the formation of rare active substances that only get produced under specific threats or stress conditions. I like that one, and it has the advantage of probably selecting for things that have fairly high biological activities (as opposed to random metabolites), but it’s still a young field, with a lot of work to be done in it. Similarly, there’s the (old) idea of co-culturing microorganisms in order to pit them against each other. That has the advantage of perhaps producing some new active compounds as well as leading to screens against organisms that otherwise can’t be cultured at all – never forget, most bacteria and fungi don’t grow under standard in vitro conditions at all.


ChelloveckJuly 13, 2017 10:00 AM

So all we have to do is spray methyl jasmonate on our servers and sit back to watch the botnets devour each other! Brilliant! Somebody fetch me some popcorn...

controversial- who's more dangerousJuly 13, 2017 10:54 AM

Speaking of insects

From "Naomi Klein: Trump is the First Fully Commercialized Global Brand to Serve as U.S. President"
https://www.democracynow.org/2017/6/13/naomi_klein_trump_is_the_first

"the business model that has been adopted by the Trump Organization is really not one that existed before the 1990s. It is what I called in my first book, No Logo, the hollow brand model, right? And the model comes out of the fact that in the—so, the original history of branding is you have a product—you know, maybe it was rice, maybe it was beans, maybe it was shoes—you’re a manufacturer first, but you want people to buy your product, so you brand it. You put a logo on it. You identify it with, you know, some sort of iconic image, like Uncle Ben’s or whatever it is, right? You give it a kind of personality.

That stopped working in the 1980s. Customers got savvy to it. I had—probably the most requoted quote of mine in No Logo is from an advertising executive who said, "Consumers are like roaches. You spray them and spray them, and they become immune after a while.""

peripherally relevant: https://theintercept.com/2017/07/10/jared-kushner-tried-and-failed-to-get-a-half-billion-dollar-bailout-from-qatar/
"Had the Qataris known where things were heading diplomatically, said the source in the region, they’d have happily ponied up the money, even knowing that it was a losing investment. “It would have been much cheaper,” he said."

Dirk PraetJuly 13, 2017 1:04 PM

I see a totally cool movie scenario: eco-terrorists set off a methyl jasmonate bomb in White House/Kremlin/Downing Street and politicians start eating each other. Hello South Park ?

DentonJuly 13, 2017 1:09 PM

@Bernie Bro
You sure are salty. Not sure how this is relevant to this blog.

@keiner
It's never lupus.

milkshakenJuly 13, 2017 2:06 PM

methyl jasmonate is just a defense signaling molecule that sets production of antifeedant chemicals in the plants, the caterpillars become malnourished as their ability to digest the plant material is impaired, so they may end up turning on each other because of innate hunger response routine. It is not a very elaborate "mind control" as these things go, just a normal reaction of starving caterpillars

RatioJuly 13, 2017 2:12 PM

@Wael,

[Scientists] should spray methyl jasmonate on ISIS. Oh, wait... looks like they've already done that except that there was some collateral damage, and everyone in the Middle East ingested some methyl jasmonate!

Hmm?

@keiner,

"Patients always lie"

Everybody lies.

Bernie BroJuly 13, 2017 4:43 PM

@Denton

Because if you can't secure you own head then all you are doing is encrypting somebody else's thoughts.

furloinJuly 13, 2017 6:55 PM

Even plants follow the divide and conquer strategy. And a derivative of jasmine oil used as bug deterent. I wonder how it is derived. I wonder also what would stop catapilliars from dividing over food. Maybe another chemical?

@Chelloveck

Divide the botnets against each other and then conquer? Sounds like social engineering to me.

WinterJuly 14, 2017 1:22 AM

People should remember that all plants are poisonous and inedible.

Animals (and humans) only get to eat some specific fragments they specialize on. Every part of tomato and potato plants is poisonous except the tomato and the potato. And plant breeders have to be very careful to make sure that their crosses do not (re-)introduce or increase the poison in the edible part.

Some examples:
Poisonous courgette
https://www.thelocal.de/20150821/courgette-stew-kills-pensioner-in-heidelberg

The Lenape potato, developed in the 1960s for the snack business, made a damn fine potato chip. Unfortunately, it was also kind of toxic.
https://boingboing.net/2013/03/25/the-case-of-the-poison-potato.html

Woman dies after drinking poisonous tea
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/21/health/poisoned-herbal-tea-death-san-francisco/

Killer Tomatoes and Poisonous Potatoes?
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/killer-tomatoes-and-poisonous-potatoes/

Remember, almost all animals are edible, almost all plants are not. And if you want to stay healthy, keep away from all natural food! Processed foods are the safest foods in human history.

Marina AbramovicJuly 14, 2017 2:32 AM

The caterpillars on a treated tomato plant ate twice as many other caterpillars than the ones on a control plant.

Methyl jasmonate is my secret ingredient put into the food and wine at my Spirit Cooking parties.

It works well.

vas pupJuly 14, 2017 8:19 AM

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170714-the-brain-hacking-sound-thats-impossible-to-ignore
"He was inspired by the neuroscience research of Luc Arnal at the University of Geneva. Arnal had investigated what neural connections are activated when humans hear a sound that is particularly difficult to ignore: screaming.
Scans revealed that, when we hear the characteristically rough, distressing sound of a scream, the amygdala – which processes fear reactions – is activated in our brains. “What I found is that this roughness doesn’t go through the same neural pathways used by speech,” he says.
It means that screams don’t just get our attention, they immediately prompt us to react in some way. We’re stimulated to actually do something. It was Arnal’s innate and, of course, irrepressible response to hearing his own new-born baby’s cries that helped to provoke his investigations.
Arnal had previously suggested that this insight could be used to design better alarms and sirens that don’t just make us freeze when we hear them, but actually invoke a more constructive reaction.
Experimental noise
To get the sound to work for the mobile clinics in Malawi, Harper spent months experimenting with audio software called Kyma to try and come up with a noise that sounded man-made enough to distinguish it from human or animal voices in the bush, but which was also not overly harsh or distressing. Getting the balance right – appealing to the emotion-processing parts of the brain without inducing fear or shock – was tough.
Our understanding of how audio influences human psychology has evolved greatly in recent years, according to Annett Schirmer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. For example, studies have shown that people’s neural activity can be co-ordinated with the help of external rhythms. This is exactly the sort of effect you would expect from, say, factory or farm labourers working in time to a song – or the effect of cohesion observed in musicians performing together.
“Music stimulation trains certain mental processes and aligns them between individuals – that’s a really cool thing,” says Shirmer.
She says the Malawi experiment was an interesting one, and agrees that behavioural manipulation could certainly be enhanced with the right sounds. However, she warns there is also a dark side to using music to alter behaviour.
“Shops use music to make customers stay longer or increase the likelihood that they purchase things,” she notes.
In the future, sound that provokes responses deep in our brains could be more thoughtfully designed into the built environment. Often, the music or signals around us fade into the background. But if the right neural pathways are triggered, they might one day be impossible to ignore.


Marina AbramovicJuly 14, 2017 9:23 AM

She says the Malawi experiment was an interesting one, and agrees that behavioural manipulation could certainly be enhanced with the right sounds. However, she warns there is also a dark side to using music to alter behaviour.

This is news?

Just read a biblical text -- any of them.

"Drumming" prompted parents of babies to throw their babies into the frying pan fires of Moloch.

Ancient Vedics (pre-Hindu) used music to prompt mass orgies, bestiality, ritual human sacrifice and cannibalism -- all at the same party.

NileJuly 19, 2017 8:43 AM

Imagine if it was possible to selectively filter peoples' social media feeds to 'downvote' or 'down-list' amicable discussion and conciliatory responses to small disagreements, and give immediate and insistent prominence to vitriolic insults and conflict.

There is, of course, no possibility whatsoever of anyone ever spraying 'social media jasmonate' upon the political 'progressives' of the left: they do it to themselves and if anybody tried it, how on Earth would you notice their success - let alone measure it?

Best not to think about that, until I find a way of profiting from the sale of tinfoil hats.

But the analogy does hold rather well, in a more general sense, for mass media coverage of political life. The question is: who's got tomatoes to protect, and the media resources to do it?

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