Plants Communicate with Help of Fungi

Symbiotic fungi on the roots of bean plants can act as an underground signaling network, transmitting early warnings of impending aphid attacks.  

By | May 14, 2013

A broad bean plant (Vicia faba)WIKIMEDIA, KARUOJISAN FROM JAPANPlants can warn each other of insect attacks by communicating via the symbiotic fungi wrapped around their root systems, according to a study out this week (May 9) in Ecology Letters.

When aphids attack, bean plants (Vicia faba) release chemicals that repel the herbivorous insects and attract parasitoids that hunt the aphids. British researchers have now demonstrated that the same chemical responses are induced in bean plants that are not under direct aphid attack, but only if they connected to aphid-infested bean plants by a network of thread-like mycorrhizal mycelia—symbiotic fungal structures known to help gather more nutrients for the plants.

The mechanism of communication is not clear, but the researchers suspect it is likely to be a chemical signal passed through this underground fungal network. The plants were covered with bags during the experiment to prevent airborne communication.

“In the past, we thought of [symbiotic fungi] making nutrients available from the [roots and soil], but now we see another evolutionary role for them in which they pay the plant back by transmitting the signal efficiently,” coauthor John Pickett of agricultural research institute Rothamsted Research in the U.K. told BBC News.

The findings could help researchers protect crops that suffer from aphid damage by introducing a plant that is particularly susceptible to aphid infestation into the field. When aphids attack, that plant would send an early warning signal to other plants through this underground fungal connection.


Add a Comment

Avatar of: You



Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo


Avatar of: Warren Levine

Warren Levine

Posts: 1

May 19, 2013

I've been using on my medical marijuana for years and have had nothing but good results. I wasn't aware they were talking to each other. I'll have to turn the music down.... =) 

Popular Now

  1. Thousands of Mutations Accumulate in the Human Brain Over a Lifetime
  2. 2017 Top 10 Innovations
    Features 2017 Top 10 Innovations

    From single-cell analysis to whole-genome sequencing, this year’s best new products shine on many levels.

  3. Search for Life on the Red Planet
  4. Two Dozen House Republicans Do an About-Face on Tuition Tax