As it turns out, talking to plants may be a good thing. A new study published in PLoS One shows that chili seeds can perceive nearby plants even if these are enclosed in boxes. As it was not possible that the enclosed vegetables could communicate through air or soil, researchers believe that plants may be able to hear sounds.
A number of chili seeds were placed close to sweet fennel, which releases chemicals that slow the plants’ growth. In some cases, the sweet fennel was placed inside a sealed box, so there was no chance that the chili plants would sense their presence. To scientists’ surprise, however, the seeds slowed their growth, probably as a way to protect themselves.
‘Despite the signalling restriction, seedlings allocated energy to their stem and root systems differently depending on the identity of the neighbour,’ write the authors of the study. ‘These results provide clear experimental evidence for the existence of communication channels between plants beyond those that have been recognized and studied thus far.’
Source: New Scientist
Gagliano M, Renton M, Duvdevani N, Timmins M, & Mancuso S (2012). Out of Sight but Not out of Mind: Alternative Means of Communication in Plants. PloS one, 7 (5) PMID: 22629387
H. Martin Schaefer, Graeme D. Ruxton