Job 10:12
“Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”

The study of plants’ abilities to protect themselves from insect attackers is a fairly new and rapidly growing area of research. It seems that new and even more amazing discoveries are appearing every month.

Let’s imagine that you are a nice little beetle looking for a tasty tomato plant. Soon after spotting a juicy-looking tomato, you are happily munching away. However, before you can finish your meal, you are in trouble. Every leaf on the tomato has started turning out chemicals that will, at the least, give you serious indigestion and possibly kill you. At the same time, the plant has warned its neighbors of your presence, and the other tomatoes, too, are turning out the same nasty chemicals. Your very act of eating has made it impossible to get a decent meal in this garden!

The latest research suggests that the tomato under attack communicates with its neighbors by releasing a chemical called methyl jasmonate. (This chemical is commonly found in perfumes.) Methyl jasmonate warns neighboring plants that hungry insects are in the neighborhood. On receiving the news, they begin producing the two chemicals that prevented you from digesting the protein in your lunch. This reaction has been seen among a number of plants, including cotton plants and various trees.

Who would ever have imagined that plants warn each other about attack? Who would have guessed that they know enough chemistry and insect biochemistry to mount such a clever defense? While even we who believe in creation are amazed, we know that the Creator can and did equip plants with these abilities.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we know that life is more than just a chemical reaction. All life reflects Your care and wisdom, characteristics that cannot come from matter itself. I thank You that this is so evident. Amen.

Author: Paul A. Bartz

Ref: Chen, Ingfei. 1990. “Plants bite back.” Science News, v. 138, Dec. 22 & 29. p. 408. Photo: Tomatoes on vine.

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