You would think that a plant would either produce a lot of defensive chemicals to prevent it from being eaten or that it would put its energy into regrowing after being eaten — but not both, given its limited energy,” said graduate student Miles Mesa, who led the research with University of Illinois animal biology professor Ken Paige. “But we found that the plants that overcompensated — with higher reproductive success after having been damaged — also produced more defensive chemicals in their tissues.”
About 90 percent of herbaceous flowering plants engage in a process called endoreduplication — duplicating all of the genetic material in their cells without cell division, the researchers said. This process increases cell size, allowing the plants to quickly rebound from damage.
Each round of endoreduplication doubles a cell’s output. Having twice as many active genes means the cell can pump out more proteins needed to perform cellular tasks.
Some plants multiply their genomes again and again in response to being browsed. One example is scarlet gilia, a red-flowered plant that grows in western North America and is browsed by elk and mule deer. Paige is studying its responses to being eaten.
“We’re seeing two- and three-fold increases in yield after it has been cut — in the same season,” he said.
Plant roots are five times more likely than leaves to turn into soil organic matter for the same mass of material.
This among other findings from Stanford researchers.
Improving how land is managed could increase soil’s carbon storage enough to offset future carbon emissions from thawing permafrost, the researchers find. Among the possible approaches: reduced tillage, year-round livestock forage and compost application. Planting more perennial crops, instead of annuals, could store more carbon and reduce erosion by allowing roots to reach deeper into the ground.
Soil holds potential to slow global warming | Stanford News