Pests and Diseases

Aspirin-like compound primes plants’ defense against pathogens

Willow trees are well-known sources of salicylic acid, and for thousands of years, humans have extracted the compound from the tree’s bark to alleviate minor pain, fever, and inflammation. Now, salicylic acid may also offer relief to crop plants by priming their defenses against a microbial menace known as “potato purple top phytoplasma.” Outbreaks of the cell-wall-less bacterium in the fertile Columbia Basin region of the Pacific Northwest in 2002 and subsequent years inflicted severe yield and quality losses on potato crops. The Agricultural Research Service identified an insect accomplice – the beet leafhopper, which transmits the phytoplasma to plants while feeding. More