Plants communicate using underground mushroom nets

Plants are able to “communicate with each other” using vast underground fungal networks through which they exchange mainly chemical information. How exactly this process works is a mystery, and new research, conducted by Professors Kathryn and Jonathan Morris of Xavier University, USA, has sought to understand how it works on a microscopic level.

The researchers used particular technologies to understand how this chemical information travels along tiny networks similar to tubes called fungal hyphae. These are essentially chemical compounds that plants exchange with each other “to warn each other of potential threats and may also limit the growth of other plants,” as Kathryn Morris reports.

To understand whether this information moves as water flows into the soil or independently of this flow, researchers have created a structure with a cactus and tomato plant rooted in the same soil and a network of small underground fungi connecting the two plants.

Using the neutronic imaging technique, the researchers are trying to understand exactly how the chemical information moves between the plants along these fungal networks, a discovery that could have big and useful implications in the field of agriculture.

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