Coevolution

In the wild a plant and its pests are continually coevolving, in a dance of resistance and conquest that can have no ultimate victor. But coevolution ceases in an orchard of grafted trees, since they are genetically identical from generation to generation. The problem very simply is that the apple trees no longer reproduce sexually, as they do when they’re grown from seed, and sex is nature’s way of creating fresh genetic combinations. At the same time the viruses, bacteria, fungi, and insects keep very much at it, reproducing sexually and continuing to evolve until eventually they hit on the precise genetic combination that allows them to overcome whatever resistance the apples may have once possessed. Suddenly total victory is in the pests’ sight—unless, that is, people come to the tree’s rescue, wielding the tools of modern chemistry.

Michael Pollan–The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

One thought on “Coevolution”

  1. BINGO! I grow cloned plants only for the landscape industry, and I know that many plants clone themselves more than they reproduce by seed, but this makes total sense. Almost all redwoods in synthetic landscapes are genetically identical, which so far has not been a problem. Not much bothers redwoods. Yet, I can not help but wonder if all that pollen from the same tree has some effect on the genetics of nearby wild redwoods.

    Liked by 1 person

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