Agriculture

Trichomes the real heroes in natural farming

These small, smooth hair protect plants from insects and stop fungal spores from germinating

 
By S Majeed Ahmed, KS Bodeeshavali
Last Updated: Thursday 11 July 2019
Trichome is typically unicellular and glandular
Trichome is typically unicellular and glandular Trichome is typically unicellular and glandular

Trichome is a small hair or other outgrowth from the epidermis of a plant, typically unicellular and glandular. In natural farming, this trichome hair is strong enough to defend sap sucking by insects, avoid leaf eating by caterpillar and spore germination of fungus.

In chemical farming trichomes are present on all above-ground parts of the plants, but we can’t remove them as they are smooth. Due to application of urea and other chemical fertilisers faster vegetative growth makes natural defending mechanisms of plants like trichomes very smooth so they can’t defend sucking insects, leaf-eating caterpillars and this allows fungal spores to germinate.

This can be compared with a human baby born immaturely in the seventh month instead of the ninth month. The immune system of the baby is under developed and may be susceptible to virus and bacteria.

The plants grown through natural farming with application of organic material, fish amino acid, egg amino acid, mulching are comparable with a full grown baby born in the ninth month with a completely developed immune system.

In plants, trichomes are the representatives of the immune system. We can feel the presence of trichomes on all parts of plants above the ground. The silica content in fully grown trichomes is very high which makes them tough. When trichomes are fully grown and hard they can stop insects like trips, mite, jassid, mealy bug, aphids whitefly etc, from feeding on new flesh due to their hardness.

The probosis of sucking insects will not reach the leaf or the stem as the trichome length is more than that of the probosis. The leaves and stems are not hard enough to resist it in chemical farming as trichomes are under developed and smooth. They will easily allow the probosis of the sucking insect to reach the growing leaf and stem.

The leaf-eating caterpillar can’t feed on leaves of plants growing in natural farming due to presence of high silica content in trichomes which are hard to chew. It will be like chewing sand in the mouth of a caterpillar. Naturally, caterpillars will avoid such plants and move to plants grown in chemical farming where trichomes are very smooth and easy to chew otherwise it will die.

Similarly, a spore of fungal mycelium, will not germinate easily on leaf or stem substrate as fully developed trichomes will not allow fungal spore to reach the leaf or stem substrate.

In due course, the fungal spore will lose its viability and can’t germinate. In case of chemical farming, a fungal spore can germinate easily, as the natural immune system ie. trichomes are very smooth and will allow fungal spore to touch substrate germinate and cause diseases.

The viral diseases are also very low in natural farming due to the fact that the propagative agent ie. thrips, mites, aphids, etc can’t suck the sap and can’t translocate the virus from a healthy to an unhealthy plant.

The presence of hard trichomes can be seen growing naturally in kitchen garden plants or in plants that grow wherever moisture is available. The immune system in natural farming and chemical farming is in the development of trichomes. That’s why, trichomes are the real heroes in natural farming.

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