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Crop Biotech Update

Plants Send Messages Over Their Own Network

September 28, 2007

A study reveals that plants are not as passive and boring as we think, as they send warning signals to each other through their own chat network. Many herbal plants, like clover, strawberry and reed, form internal networks, by means of runners, where they can exchange information efficiently. Josef Stuefer and his colleagues from the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, were the first to demonstrate that clover plants warn each other via the network links if insects or pests are nearby. If one of the plants is attacked by caterpillars, other members of the network are warned via an internal chemical signal. As the warning is received, the intact plants strengthen their chemical and mechanical resistance so that they are less attractive for advancing caterpillars.

As with computer networks, plant viruses can use the network to rapidly spread through the connected plants. The infection of one plant therefore leads to the infection of all plants within the network.