Have you ever complained that you don’t have green fingers and your plants don’t grow? Before you judge yourself too harsh, make sure you don’t underestimate plants’ intelligence. Yes, plants have exhibited traits of intelligence on several occasions.
Plants can sing, dance, make music, smell and much more. A study shows plants are also intelligent enough to know when to grow and not. They make careful decisions based on several significant factors.
To decide when to grow is one of the most important decisions a plant makes during its life. Too soon, and the plant may be damaged by harsh winter conditions; too late, and it may be out-competed by other, more precocious plants.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have shown that this trade-off between speed and accuracy is controlled by a small group of cells within the plant embryo that operate in similar way to the human brain.
Their study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Using a mathematical modelling, the scientists showed that the ‘decision-making centre’ in a plant called Arabidopsis, or thale cress, contains two types of cell – one that promotes seed dormancy, and one that promotes germination.
These two groups of cells communicate with each other by moving hormones, an analogous mechanism to that employed by our own brains when we decide whether or not to move.
“Our work reveals a crucial separation between the components within a plant decision-making centre.
In the human brain, this separation is thought to introduce a time delay, smoothing out noisy signals from the environment and increasing the accuracy with which we make decisions. The separation of these parts in the seed ‘brain’ also appears to be central to how it functions,” Professor George Bassel from the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham said.
“The separation of circuit elements allows a wider palette of responses to environmental stimuli. It’s like the difference between reading one critic’s review of a film four times over, or amalgamating four different critics’ views before deciding to go to the cinema, Dr Iain Johnston, a biomathematician at the University of Birmingham added.
This discovery will help to understand crops and weeds grow. This knowledge can also be applied commercial plants in order to enhance and synchronise germination, increasing crop yields and decreasing herbicide use.