‘Is This the Next Green Revolution?’

Marla Broadfoot, writing for Scientific American:

Typically a plant can detect when pests are afoot by the presence of special chemicals called elicitors in the saliva of chewing insects. Gary Felton, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University, and his colleagues discovered that some beetles and caterpillars can mask these telltale molecules by spitting up gut microbes onto the leaf, tricking the plant into reacting as if it were bathed in bacteria rather than ravaged by bugs. The misguided response to microbes actually disrupts the plant’s ability to defend against insects.

Fascinating stuff.

As a non-expert, the complexity of biological systems in the wild often feels to me that it defies our ability to manipulate it. Take antibacterial resistance, for example: how does it take a specific baterial population to develop resitance to a specific antibacterial? Does resistance always appear?

We can understand a system and yet not know how a new input will modify it. Do we win these battles because we can adapt to new system states faster than the system overcomes our new inputs?