Synthetic nicotine can be used as an insecticide to kill insects in tobacco plants
Synthetic Nicotine insect resistance: high cost
As one of the pillar industries in Yunnan, tobacco has a compound called nicotine, which is an alkaloid in tobacco (Solanaceae) and one of the important components of tobacco.
It can lead to addiction or dependence (one of the most difficult addictions to quit). Repeated use of nicotine can increase heart rate, raise blood pressure and reduce appetite. Large doses of nicotine can cause vomiting and nausea, and people will die in severe cases. Tobacco usually contains nicotine, which is an important reason why many smokers can’t quit smoking.
However, Synthetic Nicotine is a very good insect resistant compound. After tobacco plants are bitten by insects, the “sentinel” – that is, the plant’s sensory system will send a signal of attack. This signal is finally transmitted to the “production factory” through a very complex mechanism, ordering them to produce nicotine, and then use this neurotoxin to defend.
Interestingly, nicotine in tobacco plants is synthesized only in the root, and nicotine cannot be synthesized in the leaves and stems. In other words, after the leaves feel the insect bite, a signal will be sent to the nicotine factory in the root to start the production of nicotine.
Of course, plant defense against insects is not without cost. For example, Synthetic Nicotine is very expensive because nicotine contains nitrogen, which is used to synthesize nutrients needed for plant growth. Therefore, the synthesis of insect resistant nicotine will reduce the growth rate of plants.
After Synthetic Nicotine is produced, it is transported to the stems and leaves. After eating nicotine containing leaves, insects need to have a “detoxification” process, which is also a time-consuming and laborious process for insects. If the insect does not evolve an detoxification mechanism, it will be poisoned and die.
However, insects also evolve to develop resistance to plant insect resistant compounds. For example, tobacco moth is an insect that is very tolerant to nicotine. If the tolerance of tobacco moth is compared with that of human, the tolerance of human is too low. This is the result of insect adaptation and evolution.
Synthetic Nicotine is only one of the unique insect resistance methods of tobacco plants. In fact, plants contain a variety of secondary metabolites, many of which have insect resistance functions, such as gossypol in cotton and capsaicin in pepper, which are also compounds for plant insect resistance.
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