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Jun 6, 2017 9:26 AM CST
Plant "brains" use human-like process to decide when to sprout
Michael Irving Michael Irving June 6, 2017
Researchers have found a cluster of cells in a seed that act like a "brain" to decide when a plant should sprout
Plants are smarter than we give them credit for, with recent research revealing the clever techniques they use to sense and prepare for drought conditions, hunt out water and even learn from experience like animals. Now, a team from the University of Birmingham has discovered a cluster of cells in seeds that act like a brain to decide when the plant should sprout, in a find that could help improve crop yields.
To get the best start in life, seeds need to very carefully choose when they germinate. It could be an advantage to spring up ahead of competing seedlings, but in some cases the early bird may get the frost, and die off while more patient plants sleep in.
Working with a species called thale cress, or Arabidopsis thaliana, the Birmingham scientists located the group of cells in the seed that control this decision-making process. That group contains two competing types of cells, one promoting germination and the other promoting dormancy. These two sets are locked in a tug of war match, swapping hormones back and forth in a process that's remarkably similar to the mechanism going on in the human brain while we decide whether to move or not. In both cases, the separate competing cells seem to be key to the decision-making process.
"Our work reveals a crucial separation between the components within a plant decision-making center," says George Bassel, lead author of the study. "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."
A computer model of the cell groups in a seed that control the decision-making processes of plants
To study the phenomena, the team made a mathematical model of how the separate cells would work to control how sensitive the plant was to its environment. The model predicted that the more variation there was in environmental conditions, the more seeds would sprout. That might sound counter-intuitive, but sure enough, when the researchers tested it in the lab, they found that was exactly what happened.
"Our work has important implications for understanding how crops and weeds grow," says Bassel. "There is now potential to apply this knowledge to commercial plants in order to enhance and synchronize germination, increasing crop yields and decreasing herbicide use."
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Source: University of Birmingham
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Wyoming MN (Zone 4a)
Jun 6, 2017 12:26 PM CST
|Very interesting article Rj!|
Jun 6, 2017 2:14 PM CST
|I think that's called natural selection. The seeds that sprout early never have seeds of their own so that inclination has just been weeded out of the genetic pool.
The rattlesnakes in Central California never rattle a warning anymore. Care to guess why?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost
Maryland (Zone 7a)
Jun 6, 2017 11:29 PM CST
|When I plant seeds and some don't sprout a few days later than expected, I replant. If the seeds are deciding not to sprout on time, they are making a bad decision... LOL!|
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