Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists found benefits of insect leaf-wounding in fruit and vegetable production. Stress responses created in the fruits and vegetables initiated an increase in antioxidant compounds prior to harvest, making them healthier for human consumption. "Many studies in the past supported this idea, but many others showed no differences," said Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, Ph.D., AgriLife Research horticulture and food scientist in College Station and principal investigator for a study addressing this controversy. "In our study we proved that wounding leaves in plants like those caused by insects produce healthier organic fruit. Solving the controversy of healthier organic fruit: Leaf wounding triggers distant gene expression response of polyphenol biosynthesis in strawberry fruit (Fragaria x ananassa)." The research team, highly interdisciplinary in nature, also included molecular biologist Woo Young Bang, Ph.D., and horticulturist Leonardo Lombardini, Ph.D., both former AgriLife Research scientists.
"We conducted studies using strawberries as a crop model and applied various levels of wounding to the leaves a few days before harvesting the fruit. We found how several genes associated with sugar translocation and phenolic compound biosynthesis were overexpressed in the distant strawberry fruit," said Facundo Ibanez, Ph.D., an investigator for the project associated with the Instituto Nacional de Investigacion Agropecuaria, Uruguay. All plants have the ability to respond to the environment by activating the secondary metabolism as part of a defense mechanism or as part of an adaptation process. It also activates the primary metabolism, which will move the carbon source needed to produce those antioxidant compounds, explained Cisneros-Zevallos.
(Source: Agriculture and Food News, ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com)