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Plants can do math, reveal UK scientists

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 19:46

Zee Media Bureau

London: A new study has revealed that plants have a built-in capacity to do maths, which then helps them regulate food reserves at night to prevent starvation.

Scientists say they were amazed to find a sophisticated arithmetic calculation inside a plant’s biology. The calculation allows them to use up their starch reserves at a constant rate so that they run out of it almost precisely at dawn.

“This is the first concrete example in a fundamental biological process of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation,” said mathematical modeller Professor Martin Howard from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK.

During the day, plants feed themselves using energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch. After the sunset, they depend on a store of starch to prevent starvation.

Scientists showed that plants make precise adjustments to their rate of starch consumption. These adjustments ensure that the starch store lasts until dawn. To adjust their starch consumption so precisely, they must be performing a mathematical calculation - arithmetic division, scientists said. “The capacity to perform arithmetic calculation is vital for plant growth and productivity,” said metabolic biologist Professor Alison Smith.

“Understanding how plants continue to grow in the dark could help unlock new ways to boost crop yield,” said Smith.

Researchers used the plant, Arabidopsis to analyse their findings.

The study has been published in the journal eLife.

With PTI inputs

First Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 19:42
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