Strengthening agent kickstarts plants' survival instincts

Researchers in South Africa recently developed an organic agent that restores chemical imbalance in plants so that they can better protect themselves in nature.

ComCat was developed as part of a joint project between the German company Agraforum and the Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa.

Most wild plant varieties can resist mild stress factors that might otherwise impede their growth and yield, but many plants that are bred in strictly controlled conditions have lost the chemical ability to protect themselves in nature.

Using self-protection chemicals extracted from wild plants, the UFS researchers were able to restart the self-defense mechanism. 

"This important survival mechanism became dormant in monoculture crops," Elmarie van der Watt, a researcher at UFS, said. "ComCat wakes the plant up and says ‘Hey, you should start protecting yourself.' "

Applied as a foliar spray, ComCat has resulted in stronger seedlings, as well as improved growth and yield. 

So far, ComCat is only available commercially in Europe. 

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University of the Free State

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