If a tomato could talk, what would it say? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute, but it might surprise you to learn that they can talk.
One way they do that is by releasing chemicals into the air, which other plants can then pick up to get a message. But new research from China has shown that they can also talk to each other through common mycorrhizal networks, which is basically a network of fungus around their roots (Song Y, Zeng R, Xu J, Li J, Shen X & Yihdego W, “Interplant communication of tomato plants through underground common mycorrhizal networks”, PLoS One. 2010; 5(10): e13324).
These fungi help the plants by providing nutrients from the soil; and the plants help the fungi by giving them sugar and a nice place to live. But this latest study found that tomato plants can also pass messages to each other when the fungus is connected. When one plant was given a disease, the other plants sharing its network developed resistance before they were also exposed.
So, what do they talk about? Well… OK, I searched online for an image I could use to illustrate this story. And I found something, but… All I can say is: I’m sorry.
Hey, it could have been worse.