When you approach the tomato plants, the first thing that catches your eye is the vivid green of the plants and the red (if they are already red) of the tomatoes hanging from their characteristic cane scaffolds. The last, perhaps, is the terrain. And even, the ground under our feet at this time is full of electrical signals which travel from one floor to another as if it were a patio bustling with neighbors.

Two researchers, Yuri Shtessel of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Alexander Volkov of Oakwood University, performed a series of physical experiments with the idea of model this electrical signal mess and find out if it was just noise or hiding something really interesting.

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Think of orchards as networks of processors

Camille Brodard

Throughout his research career, Volkov has studied the propagation of electrical signals within plants. However, a few years ago, he realized that there was a network of mycorrhizal fungi (species in symbiosis with the roots of plants) which spread very strikingly and seemed to act as a “connector” between them. . in soil biodynamics. This is where Shtessel, an expert in control systems, raised study it as an electric circuit.

Because? Basically, the study of plant communication requires very expensive and above all very long experiments. Yes ” we can use the mathematical model to simulate the processes studied on a computer, “our knowledge on the subject will evolve much faster,” explained Shtessel. But, for that, it is necessary to demonstrate that such a modeling is possible (and relevant).

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First, they made several experiments to isolate the tomato plants, leaving air spaces between them and they verified that, regardless of the proximity of the roots, the “communication” between them had collapsed relative to tomato plants that grew in common soil. In other words, they demonstrated that the ground is the key element that allows electrical signals to be conducted and that these electrical signals behave, analytically, like a communication network. An extension of internal plant signals.

The central question at the moment is to clarify what they mean. As Volkov explained, internal signals are well studied and are said to play a role relatively similar to that of a primordial nervous system. Save the distances, of course. For this reason, it is reasonable to think that in contexts such as that of tomato plants, there are communication processes that can have very important defensive implications against pests.

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Much remains to be studied, but this type of work brings us closer than ever to “precision” agriculture. Who knows if in a decade we will be able to run complex programs on tomato plants?

Source : Engadget