Plants `can talk`

Researchers say that plants are all communicating with each other in a complex "invisible language".

London: It`s now confirmed. Plants can talk.

Researchers at Exeter University in Britain claim to have
found that plants can communicate with one another -- in fact,
they`ve for the first time captured such a process on camera.

To find out how plants talk, the researchers modified a
cabbage gene which triggers the production of a gas emitted
when a plant`s surface is cut or pierced.

By adding the protein luciferase -- which makes fireflies
glow in the dark -- to the DNA the plants` emissions could be
monitored on camera. One cabbage plant had a leaf cut off with
scissors and started emitting a gas -- methyl jasmonate --
thereby "telling" its neighbours there may be trouble ahead.

Two nearby cabbage plants, which had not been touched,
received the message they should protect themselves. They did
this by producing toxic chemicals on the leaves to fend off
predators such as caterpillars, a newspaper reported.

The researchers say it raises the possibility that plants
are all communicating with each other in a complex "invisible
language" which we know nothing about.

"We have managed to show in a visual way that the gas
emitted by plants when they have been wounded affects their
neighbours. But at this stage we don`t know why.

"They could have been trying to alert the plant`s other
leaves to the damage and their neighbours have just picked it
up, or they for some reason evolved to alert other plants.

"It is not clear why that would be beneficial as you
would think plants would be in competition with each other. So
there`s a lot more work to be done," Professor Nick Smirnoff,
who led the research, said.

The footage will be shown as part of a three-part series
called How to Grow a Planet, starting on Tuesday on `BBC2` and
presented by Professor Iain Stewart.

Prof Stewart said: "It`s fascinating to realise that
there could be a constant chatter going on between different
plants, that they can in some way sense chemically what is
happening to others, like a hidden language which could be
going on all around us.

"Most people assume that plants lead a rather passive
life, but in reality they move and sense and communicate. It`s
almost like they show a kind of intelligence."


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