Ready for Battle: Priming, Plant Immune System and Fighting-Off Pathogens


Most of us are familiar with concepts such as immunity, immune system, vaccine, virus, and pathogen. All of them concern human health and have lately been largely linked with the coronavirus pandemic.

But plants are also threatened, much as humans are, by viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects, and other species that jeopardize their survival.

Although plants are immobile and appear to be passive, according to human standards, they use a variety of barriers and complex mechanisms to defend themselves from pests, diseases, and even adverse environmental conditions.

And Priming Technology can help them do it.

So then, what is priming and what does plant protection have to do with it?


What is Priming?

Like humans, plants are regularly at war with pathogens, and they do have a natural immune system that helps them fight-off potential threats. Vaccines are one of the many solutions that humans have developed to protect themselves from potential diseases. And, of course, a similar strategy can be applied to plants: they can be immunized by strengthening their immune systems against specific pathogens.

This strategy, called “Priming,” includes supporting plant defenses such that they are always ready to act, but are not fully activated (yet). Enabling them to detect possible threats and respond faster and more efficiently.

This defense method helps to reduce agricultural losses caused by pests and diseases, and avoids, at the same time, the use of pesticides, substituting them for the plant’s own natural resources, thus increasing sustainability.

Human immunity is based on the capacity of our organism to recognize characteristic patterns or molecules of a specific disease; similarly, plants can recognize specific patterns of those pathogens that could be a threat to them, triggering an immune response against them.

But that is easier said than done because, just as coronavirus evolves and new strains emerge, plant pathogens also mutate to avoid recognition by the host, increasing their chances of successful colonization of the plant before its immune response is activated, or to trick it into activating the wrong immune response.

To properly recognize their enemy is crucial for plants, they do it or they die. And a wrong response is not only ineffective, but it could even facilitate infection.

The Priming Technology offers many advantages compared to the direct activation of plant defenses. Priming, also known as “elicitation of plants”, does not trigger the synthetization of defense proteins directly; a primed plant (after applying the elicitor) enters a state of alert, during which the ability to promptly recognize a pathogen is enhanced (better signaling) and the transcription of defense proteins facilitated (chromatin remodeling), when there is a real need for them, that is, in the presence of a pathogen. Thus, immune responses are triggered faster and more effectively, often even avoiding the appearance of the disease.


Can Priming Technology be considered a vaccine for plants?

Priming is a very similar strategy to vaccination in humans.

A vaccine works by “tricking” the immune system into thinking it is under attack. To achieve that effect, a “disease elicitor” (a part of the pathogen or the attenuated pathogen) is inoculated into the body.

This has a double effect: on the one hand, defenses are stimulated, such as the production of antibodies, and on the other hand, a “defensive memory” is produced, facilitating the future identification of the pathogen by the immune system. If that same pathogen strikes again, the organism will react more rapidly, efficiently and intensely, neutralizing the pathogen, preventing the development of the disease, or overcoming it faster and with less damages.

Now, applying that same principle to the plant kingdom, the Priming Technology aims to prepare the plant’s immune system by inoculating elicitors, that is, molecular patterns recognizable for the plant (characteristic fragments of the pathogen or of damaged plant tissues), and making it enter a pre-alert state. Consequently, defensive responses are triggered earlier and more intensely, minimizing the stress, reducing the damage to plant health and thus, helping to preserve the harvest.

The application of Priming Technology to agriculture

The Priming Technology prepares the plant for the battle against pathogens, pre-activating its defenses, and reducing the chances for infection as well as the symptoms. And it does it while minimizing the resources invested, preserving plant growth and reducing production losses. A high agricultural production can be maintained, farmers can save on phytosanitary products, toxic waste is reduced, and ultimately the food is healthier and safer. In short, a minimum investment offers multiple advantages.

Farmers and market suppliers face difficult challenges every day, such as an ever-increasing demand for quality products and zero residues. Consumers demand products that are completely natural and do not generate resistances, unlike chemical plant protection products, and that has led the whole industry to develop products with Priming elicitors, as effective as chemicals in terms of protection, which biostimulate the plant and activate its defenses naturally.

This Priming Technology is also integrated in our 4Health System, our source of molecules of interest for our natural solutions, which we obtain from 4 different natural areas: Microbiology, Microalgae, Botany and Green Chemistry. By revealing synergies between these natural areas, we have managed to apply all our scientific knowledge to commercial agriculture, through the creation of a range of Priming products that allow to achieve a highly effective production system of natural products.


Last but not least, this Priming Technology is enclosed within the European Green Deal strategy, specifically in its “From Farm to Fork” campaign, which promotes, among other things, a reduction in the use of chemical plant protection products and, in general, the production of healthier and safer food for us, as well as the reduction of toxins in the environment. A change inherent to Kimitec’s DNA since our foundation in 2007, and that is perfectly represented by our motto “We believe in a different way of producing food”, our respect for the environment and people’s health, and our efforts to maintain the farmer’s productivity. Based on these principles, we research and develop our natural solutions at MAAVi Innovation Center, the largest research center dedicated to natural agriculture in Europe.

Find out more about our natural Priming solutions here.

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