Research on model organisms helps scientists understand how plants function.
There are a huge variety of different plants found on Earth. Can you imagine doing research on every single different plant?
Thankfully, although plants may look very different from one another, they have a lot in common in terms of how they protect themselves.
When research is conducted to find out more about plant defense, the purpose is usually to figure out how to better protect crop plants. Though plants have many uses to humans, we often grow plants commercially for food. Research would be incredibly tedious if each individual type of crop plant had to be studied.
Though some labs do focus on specific crop plants, most labs focus on one plant in particular, Arabidopsis thaliana.
Arabidopsis thaliana is the scientific name for a plant commonly known as thale cress. It is used as a model organism for plant research.
A model organism is a species that is studied in research in order to understand more about a larger group of species. Model organisms are chosen because they are easy to work with (relatively cheap and easy to keep alive, produce offspring quickly, DNA is easy to understand and manipulate). Here are some examples of other model organisms (notice that humans are NOT a model organism, mammalian research is much easier to perform on mice or rats):
Arabidopsis thaliana is useful as a model species because it is easy and inexpensive to grow, has a short life cycle, and has a small genome. The fact that so many labs do research on arabidopsis makes it even easier to study because now the entire genome is sequenced and a lot about how the plant works has been studied. An important part of research is sharing information throughout labs. Any information learned about arabidopsis or other model species in one lab helps guide research around the world!
image source: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/target/