Plants use their roots to “listen in” on their neighbours, according to research that adds to evidence that plants have their own unique forms of communication.
The study found that plants in a crowded environment secrete chemicals into the soil that prompt their neighbours to grow more aggressively, presumably to avoid being left in the shade.
“If we have a problem with our neighbours, we can move flat,” said Velemir Ninkovic, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and lead author. “Plants can’t do that. They’ve accepted that and they use signals to avoid competing situations and to prepare for future competition.”