Plant resilience determines survival of plants, when faced with stressful conditions. One of the keys to strategies for animal resilience could be the answer to the question: What is helping plants to adapt to climate changes, attacks by microbial pathogens, insect pests and other stressors?
Resilience a key trait to survival
Resilience is a modern name for an inherent trait. It has always been crucial to survival to bounce back from challenges and stressors and carry on living. This is what defines resilience in plants, animals, humans and organisations. The quicker you can adapt to or the lower the impact challenges and stressors can have on your normal functioning the greater the chance of survival in the long term. The more resilient you are, the less support you require from outside, and the more consistent and efficient your performance. This means resilience is a key competitive advantage particularly in stressful situations and times of change.
Why resilience matters in animal production
There is a vast amount of activities and studies currently focusing to increase plant resilience. Things on the animal side are behind, but the pace is already picking up for very similar reasons. Climate change, demands for reduction in the use of chemicals and antibiotic growth promotors, increased concerns for animal welfare and a rapid decline in skilled labour in animal production are driving geneticists back to the drawing board. They all essentially agree: Continued selection for greater performance in the absence of consideration for the adaptive capacity of animals to cope with stressors will result in greater susceptibility to stress and disease. Possibilities for genetic selection and other alternatives to improve the adaptive capacity of animals are currently being explored in various research projects across the world to increase animal resilience.
Extracting plant resilience
As plants evolved, they developed very sophisticated coping mechanisms to stressors, helping plants to be more resilient in the face of stressors and threats to survival.
The exposure of plants to unfavorable environmental conditions increases the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). As a result, the ROS detoxification process in plants is essential for the protection of plant cells against the toxic effect of ROS. The ROS detoxification systems in plants include enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants. Non-enzymatic antioxidants involved include phenolic compounds, flavonoids, alkaloids, tocopherol and carotenoids. The antioxidant defense systems work in concert to control the cascades of uncontrolled oxidation and protect plant cells from oxidative damage by scavenging of ROS.
Apart from antioxidants, plants contain a multitude of bioactive substances, with a variety of proven properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and aromatic, which are part of their resilience mechanisms for survival and defense. The combination of the many substances makes plants polyvalent to different stressors and threats to survival.
Many plants produce essential oils, which contain those bioactive substances to protect them from stressors and disease in a more concentrated form. Essential oils are volatile oils, which can be extracted from plants by distillation. These oils have a long history as food preservatives and today many of them are classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Applying the secret of plants to support animal resilience
On a cellular level, animals experience similar type of stress reactions to plants. Stressors, such as heat, dietary changes, weaning, transition period and mycotoxins will cause an increase in the production of ROS, trigger inflammatory responses and increase permeability of cells in the gut. This again can make the animal more susceptible to disease.
Extracting essential oils from plants containing the very same bioactive components, that are helping plants to cope and resist stressors, and applying them to animal nutrition concepts, can help to support the resilience of animals. Gut agility activators are new nutritional concepts based on some of the mechanisms to plant resilience and are specifically designed to improve the animal’s adaptability to stressors. This then provides a way to support animal resilience by nutritional means.