In the fourth lecture from this series, Sue Hartley explores the ways we can manipulate plants to suit our own needs.
In the past, human agriculture has attempted to disarm plant defences and increase their nutrient content. But advances in scientific research have allowed us to move towards cultivating plants that are bigger, healthier, and more edible. The crops on our plates now look, and taste, very different to their wild relatives.
Just like humans and other animals, plants need to communicate, particularly when they are under threat. But although these chemical defence mechanisms might save them from being eaten, it uses up vital energy that could otherwise be used for growth.