Listening to anxious plants

Published May 18, 2020

Forget using a moisture meter or pH test to see how your plants are doing — this is 2020! MIT researchers have developed a kind of carbon nanotube that can be embedded in leaves that listens in on the plants’ own chemical signalling system.

Plants (I learned) use hydrogen peroxide to send out “distress signals” from one part to another. Those signals tell the plant to produce different chemicals depending on what’s threatening it.

Each species also appears to respond differently to different types of stress, including mechanical injury, infection, and heat or light damage.

By tapping into those signals, engineers can determine which plant is in trouble, and what’s bothering it, and send the info to a smartphone.

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