Scientists have found that plants can talk, and even recorded the 'speech' of a tomato - ForumDaily
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Scientists have found that plants can talk, and even recorded the 'speech' of a tomato

In a groundbreaking study, a Tel Aviv University team has documented "talking" plants for the first time. Scientists have discovered the clicking sounds that plants make. People cannot hear them, they differ depending on the type and type of stress, reports Times Of Israel.

Photo: IStock

Plants have been known for some time to communicate with each other, but now Israeli scientists say they have identified 'words' and found that different species speak different 'languages', according to a new study published March 30 in a prestigious scientific journal. Cell.

Scientists already know that plants communicate in a variety of ways when they are stressed. They may change physically (withering or discoloration of the leaves), become bitter in taste (to repel herbivores), or emit odors (volatile organic compounds) to inform other members of the family that they are being attacked, for example, by insects.

One recent study showed that plants can respond to sound by, for example, increasing the concentration of sugar in the nectar to attract pollinators that are noisy nearby.

But according to researchers at Tel Aviv University, the new study is the first time that aerial sounds from stressed plants have been recorded from a distance and classified.

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It turns out that plants “talk” with clicks that are a bit like popping popcorn. Sounds are produced at a volume similar to human speech, but at high frequencies, beyond the range of human hearing. Scientists have recorded the sounds that a tomato bush makes.

Professor Lilah Hadani of the University School of Plant Science and Food Security, who led the study, said: “We have resolved a very old scientific dispute. We have proven that plants make sounds!”

She continued: “Our results show that the world around us is full of plant sounds and that these sounds contain information, such as lack of water or injuries. We hypothesize that in nature the sounds made by plants are picked up by nearby creatures such as bats, rodents, various insects, and possibly also other plants that are able to hear high frequencies and extract relevant information.”

“We believe that people can also use this information with the right tools, such as sensors that tell growers when plants need to be watered.
Apparently, an idyllic field of flowers can be quite a bustling place. We just don’t hear sounds,” she said.

The research team recorded ultrasonic noises produced by tomato plants and tobacco, which were deprived of water, received stem cuts, or were left alone (as controls).

Ultrasonic sounds have a frequency of 20 to 150 kHz, which is above the limit of human hearing.

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The idea of ​​testing at these frequencies came about as a result of a collaboration between Hadani, who is an evolutionary scientist, and another co-lead of the study, Prof. Yossi Yovel. Yovel, head of the School of Neurology and lecturer at the Steinhardt School of Zoology and Museum of Natural History, has recorded bat sounds that also operate in this frequency range.

Plants were recorded both in a quiet acoustic chamber and in a noisy greenhouse. Physiological changes in plants were also observed. Machine learning models were trained to associate sounds with different types of plants and the different stresses they were subjected to.

“Our recordings showed that the plants in our experiment made sounds at frequencies between 40 and 80 kHz,” Hadani said.

“Unstressed plants made an average of less than one sound per hour, while stressed plants — both dehydrated and damaged — made dozens of sounds every hour,” she said.

Tomato plants, for example, made very little noise when watered, but over the next four or five days the noise increased and then decreased as the plants dried.

Recordings were also made of sounds coming from tomato plants affected by the tobacco mosaic virus.

To further test their findings, the team conducted a small study of additional plant species, successfully recording the sounds of wheat, corn, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, cushion cacti, and whiteflies, the last annual plant in the mint family.
“Thus, we expect that many plants make sounds, but the diversity of these sound characteristics remains to be explored,” they write.

The researchers suggest that the sounds may be related, at least in part, to cavitation in the barrel. When a plant is under stress, air bubbles can form, expand, and break down in the xylem, a complex of tiny tubes that carry water and solutes from the roots to the stem and leaves.

Vibrations, unlike the sounds caused by this phenomenon, were recorded by sensors in the past.

The scientists concluded that the results could have potential for precision farming, such as monitoring water and disease, especially as climate change causes increased drought, threatening ecosystems and food security.

They also open up the enticing prospect that other organisms can "hear" and respond to sounds.

“The plant emissions that we report in the ultrasonic range from 20 to 100 kHz can be detected at a distance of three to five meters by many mammals and insects, given their auditory sensitivity, such as mice. and moths,” the article says. “We have shown that plant sounds can be efficiently classified using machine learning algorithms. Thus, we speculate that other organisms may have evolved to also classify and respond to these sounds."

“These discoveries could change our understanding of the plant kingdom, which until now was considered almost silent,” the scientists wrote in the article. Hadani said the sounds may simply be a side effect of physiological processes, or they may be a form of communication.

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Scientists already know that the release of volatile organic compounds from one threatened plant can help other plants prepare for the reported danger.

It's possible plant sounds could have a similar effect, Hadani suggested, adding that sounds could radiate faster than organic compounds.

“Sounds contain information. We can learn about the condition of the plant, so others can too. The question is who uses this information and for what,” she said.

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