Plant Doctor

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Biologist Maeli Melotto hopes that by discovering the secrets of plant hormones, she can reduce chemical use in farming. Funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, the assistant professor is researching the hormone jasmonate, which, in healthy plants, helps reproductive development and growth responses. If you introduce stressors, the hormone shifts to defense-related cellular processes. However, some plant pathogens have developed ways to mimic jasmonate’s action in the cell, therefore enabling them to aggressively colonize plants without activating natural defense mechanisms. Dr. Melotto wants to determine what is responsible for the innate immunity that results in these plants. “By increasing genetic resistance, we could reduce the use of pesticides, decrease crop production costs, and promote environmentally friendly farming practices.”

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