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Building a model for trees’ defenses

When we get sick, our bodies launch a defense.

It’s a similar story with trees. But while these plants don’t have an immune system like humans, they do have a chemical response that helps protect from invading organisms. It’s this defense mechanism that Caterina Villari is exploring.

“If you understand what’s happening, it will help you select for resistance,” said Villari, an assistant professor of forest pathology at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. By identifying the response that is the most successful at fighting off pathogens or pests, we can select seedlings with these properties—and help grow more pathogen-resistant forests.

“A tree is not a passive organism—it will respond. And a tree has very fine-tuned mechanisms of defense against pathogens,” she added. “The plant is able to perceive that something is attacking it, and then it will react with the production of other sorts of components.”

Read more about how Villari is harnessing the power of technology to identify tree health issues in the UGA News website.

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