Spanish scientists found that a spray of synthetic HB helps various crop plants to withstand both drought and bacterial infections.
Tomatoes are certainly tough plants partly due to Hexenyl Butyrate (HB) compound emitted by them. In a natural process of transpiration, water within a plant evaporates through tiny pores called as stomata opening on the surface of its leaves. Simultaneously carbon dioxide from the surrounding air is drawn into the plant through those stomata, which regulates the process of photosynthesis. A recent study suggested that due to the increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, plants may no longer need to have their stomata open for as long an amount of time, in order to get required amount of CO2.
Scientists from Spain’s Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology created a synthetic form of HB, which was sprayed onto tomato, corn, alfalfa, citrus, and tobacco plants. It was found that the treated plants were able to survive on considerably less water than a control group. Furthermore, they were more resistant to infection by harmful Pseudomonas syringae bacteria. The compound is easy and inexpensive to synthesize, non-toxic, and highly effective requiring relatively low doses.
However, excessive amount of HB can keep plants from maturing – they enter a sort of dormancy if their stomata remain closed for too long – that factor could also be used to farmers’ advantage, as they could purposely delay the ripening of crops to coincide with the needs of the market. A paper on the study was published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science in January 2019. The Institute for Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology is a joint center of the Universitat Politècnica de València and the Spanish National Research Council.