Discovery of Parasitic Plant Control Mechanism May Lead to Better Containment

A media release from Virginia Tech reveals a groundbreaking discovery about parasitic plants: They exchange RNA (mRNA, or “messenger” RNA) with their hosts to “communicate,” probably to control the way the host plant behaves. The release quotes Julie Scholes of the University of Sheffield: “Parasitic plants such as witchweed and broomrape are serious problems for legumes and other crops that help feed some of the poorest regions in Africa and elsewhere.” The new work could lead to better ways for humans to control parasitic plants. Biologist Jim Westwood states, “The beauty of this discovery is that this mRNA could be the Achilles hill for parasites.”