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Plant-to-Plant Warning Signals

  • 30 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recently, scientists have unveiled pivotal insights into how plants perceive and respond to danger signals from neighboring plants.

  • This discovery offers potential avenues for leveraging plant communication to enhance agricultural pest control without resorting to pesticides.

How do Plants Warn Each Other of Danger?

  • Plant Communication and Coordination: Plants are not passive organisms that merely react to their environment. They can communicate with each other and coordinate their responses to various threats.
    • They possess the ability to intercept damage happening to other nearby plants.
    • By mounting a defense response, plants can make themselves less palatable or even indigestible to the insect attackers.
  • Green Leaf Volatiles as Signaling Agents: One of the ways that plants communicate is by releasing and sensing airborne chemicals called Green leaf volatiles (GLVs).
    • GLVs, emitted by plants when injured, create the pleasant smell of fresh cut grass for humans. However, to neighboring plants, this scent functions as a warning signal, indicating potential danger.
    • It is mediated by calcium, a common mediator of chemical and electrical signals found throughout biology.
      • When insects nibble on plant leaves, calcium ions flood the cells, prompting them to emit a glow.
  • Response of Mutant Mustard Plant to GLVs: Scientists recently experimented mutant mustard plant, designed to check if it could also react to GLVs.
    • When exposed to air laden with GLVs, the plant exhibited a glowing response under the microscope, signifying its ability to sense volatile components released by damaged plants.

How Plant Communication Can be Utilized for Sustainable Agriculture?

  • Reduced Chemical Usage: Leveraging plant defense mechanisms may reduce the need for chemical interventions. This could lead to a decrease in pesticide application, minimizing environmental pollution and promoting healthier ecosystems.
  • Enhanced Crop Resilience: It can bolster crop resilience against stressors.
    • By implementing strategies that encourage communication between plants, such as companion planting or intercropping, farmers may improve overall crop health and resilience.
  • Genetic Engineering: It can guide genetic engineering efforts. By enhancing plants' natural defense mechanisms through genetic modification, scientists could develop crops that are more resistant to pests and diseases, potentially reducing reliance on external interventions.
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