Touch your plants and they’ll tell their neighbors

Yearly tree pruning

Plants can detect the presence of their neighbours and modify their growth behaviour accordingly. But the extent to which this neighbour detection is mediated by abiotic stressors is not well known. In this study we tested the acclimation response of Zea mays L. seedlings through belowground interactions to the presence of their siblings exposed to brief mechano stimuli. Maize seedling simultaneously shared the growth solution of touched plants or they were transferred to the growth solution of previously touched plants. We tested the growth preferences of newly germinated seedlings toward the growth solution of touched (T_solution) or untouched plants (C_solution). The primary root of the newly germinated seedlings grew significantly less towards T_solution than to C_solution. Plants transferred to T_solution allocated more biomass to shoots and less to roots. While plants that simultaneously shared their growth solution with the touched plants produced more biomass. Results show that plant responses to neighbours can be modified by aboveground abiotic stress to those neighbours and suggest that these modifications are mediated by belowground interactions.

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