Leaf wounds from insects make organic fruits and vegetables healthier for us to eat, researchers report.
The plants’ stress responses initiates an increase in antioxidant compounds prior to harvest, the study shows.
“Many studies in the past supported this idea, but many others showed no differences,” says principal investigator Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, a horticulture and food scientist at Texas A&M University AgriLife Research. “In our study we proved that wounding leaves in plants like those caused by insects produce healthier organic fruit.”
“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,” says Facundo Ibanez, an investigator for the project from the Instituto Nacional de Investigacion Agropecuaria in 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, explains Cisneros-Zevallos.