Researchers discover stressed plants produce aspirin-like chemical

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Researchers are reporting that plants can produce an aspirin-like chemical when under stress.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research say the chemical can be detected in the air above the plants. They speculate that the chemical may be a sort of immune response that helps protect the plants.

The researchers say the finding raises the possibility that farmers, forest managers and others may eventually be able to start monitoring plants for early signs of disease, an insect infestation or other types of stress. Currently, they often don't know if an ecosystem is unhealthy until there are visible indicators, such as dead leaves.

Researchers had known that plants in the laboratory produce a form of aspirin known as methyl salicylate, but they had never looked for it in the forest.

The new findings are published in the journal Biogeosciences.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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