An Information Superhighway for Plants

So let me tell you about another website I just discovered that is of interest to the botanically-minded. It’s called Soils Matter, and it’s sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America. These are folks devoted to educating the public about the importance of sustainable soil practices. ¬†They also have a website, www.soils.org.

soil science society

Anyway, I was intrigued by a post called “Do Plants and Soil Really Talk?”. Turns out they kind of do, though it might be more accurate to say that plants communicate to each other through the mycorrhizal fungi found in the soil.

Like many of you, I’ve been aware of the importance of mycorrhizal fungi for helping plants access nutrients in the soil. But research by Suzanne Simard at the University of British Columbia indicates that trees use networks of mycorrhizal fungi to send warnings of diseases or insect infestations via chemical signals.

Texas Live Oak
What is this tree saying to its friends?

Dying trees also use the fungi to transfer resources to healthier trees.

Mycorrhizal fungi are really, really tiny thread-like tubes. They are so tiny that there can be miles of them in a single tablespoon of soil.

So mycorrhizal fungi are kind of like an information superhighway for trees. This brings to mind the infamous moment in 2006 when the 83-year-old Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) explained how the internet was a “series of tubes”. Perhaps the late Senator was thinking of mycorrhizal fungi?

Anyway, the post on Soils Matter also has a link to a fantastic podcast on Radio Lab called “From Tree to Shining Tree”. It’s about 33 minutes long, but it’s really worth a listen if you find this topic interesting.

That’s all for now.

 

20 Comments on “An Information Superhighway for Plants”

  1. Thanks for the links. I will listen to that podcast later as I do find this topic of communication between plants quite fascinating. We have a very good woodsman (actually from Austria) who gives lectures on tree ‘behaviour’ and the qualities of wood, which I enjoy hearing… unfortunately only in German though!

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