A new study claims that plants are able to warn each other of impending doom. Using a process called “volatile signalling,” plants that are damaged by herbivores release a scent that is picked up by nearby plants to trigger “anti-herbivore defence systems.”
The study, published in Plant Physiology in February builds its case on existing evidence about how plants use their defences against herbivores.
“Surrounding undamaged plants exposed to odors emitted from plants eaten by pests can develop resistance to the pests,” study’s author Gen-ichiro Arimura from the Tokyo University of Science said in a release.
The study further adds that “plants perceive volatiles emitted from herbivore-damaged neighboring plants to urgently adapt or prime their defense responses to prepare for forthcoming herbivores.”
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A process called “epigenetic regulation” was highlighted in the study, wherein genes are regulated in response to environmental stimuli and factors.
What are the implications of this discovery? For starters, knowing that plants can “talk” will heavily impact organic cultivation. Understanding how plants communicate with each other in the face of threats can help reduce human dependence on pesticides, helping chart out a pathway for production of food.
According to Arimura, the effective use of “plants’ natural survival strategies in production systems will bring us closer to the realization of a sustainable society that simultaneously solves environmental and food problems.”
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“Scents” of alarm: Volatile chemical signals from damaged plants warn neighbors about herbivore attacks: Researchers discover the epigenetic mechanisms of volatile-signal-induced activation of defense genes in plants. (2022). ScienceDaily.