While we tend to think of plants as overly passive life matter that look good and give us and other animals life-sustaining oxygen and a natural food source, it turns out plants are a little more fierce than we thought.
They don't just sit there and take it when attacked!
In a new study published last week in Science magazine, scientists provided an awesome view of the built-in alarm systems and defense mechanisms that kick in when plants get attacked. Simon Gilroy and Masatugu Toyota, botany professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Japan Science & Technology Agency, respectively, visually showcased for the first time the immediate defensive signaling action in a mustard plant after it was attacked by cabbage caterpillar.
The play-by-play goes something like this:
- Mustard plant gets attacked;
- The plant sends out a warning signal from the site of the attack in the form of an electrical charge via calcium ions;
- After the warning signal is spread out over the entire plant, it releases chemicals that start the repair but also defense-related hormones — think noxious/insect-unfriendly chemicals — in preparation for future attacks.
A plant's automatic defense mechanism reminds us of how ongoing asset allocation benefits investors. When one asset class is under attack — think equities during a bear market — other non-correlated asset classes kick into gear as investors flee to safer asset classes (fixed income) or asset classes that can outperform better given the circumstances (real assets during inflation scares). As part of the ongoing "attack" as time goes on, good asset allocation advice should motivate investors to rebalance their asset allocation back into the underperforming asset class, i.e., buying equities when they have fallen during a temporary bear market.
Like a plant's cool chemical release to ward off potential predators, asset class rebalancing is just as cool — helping to ensure better investor returns over the long-term.
Contact Russell Moenich to learn more about this topic.
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