Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Plants Use Underground Networks to Warn of Enemy Attack

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Plants use underground fungal networks to warn their neighbours of aphid attack.

The study, published in Ecology Letters, is the first to reveal plants' ability to communicate underground in this way. If crops can be managed by exploiting this natural communication channel, it could provide a new weapon in the battle against insect pests.

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen, the James Hutton Institute and Rothamsted Research grew the bean plant (Vicia faba) in groups connected via underground networks of mycelia - a thread-like fungus that grows from one set of roots to another.

Aphids were introduced to one plant in each group, which triggering the release of a suite of chemicals designed to repel attack (see image gallery below). Remarkably, plants in the group which were not under attack themselves, but which were connected via fungal network, also began to produce the defensive chemical response. Plants without the fungal networks didn't mount a chemical defence, so remained vulnerable to aphid attack.

As previous research had shown that plants could communicate chemically through the air, researchers covered the plants to rule out above-ground signalling.

Dr David Johnson, of the University of Aberdeen, led the study. He says: "We knew that plants produce volatile chemicals when attacked, and we knew they communicate danger to each other above ground. Now we know that they communicate danger through these underground fungal networks as well."

The roots of virtually all groups of plants, including important food crops such as wheat, rice, maize and barley, are colonised by symbiotic fungi.

Another of the study's authors, Prof John Pickett of Rothamsted Research, highlighted the potential impact of this research: "Aphids affect all higher-latitude agricultural regions, including the UK, the EU, North America, and North East Asia. This research could provide a new, sustainable and natural intervention. In a field of plants that have some inducible resistance to aphids, we could use a plant that's susceptible to aphid attack to 'switch on' the defence mechanism through the natural underground connection. There's the potential to deal with other pests and diseases, in other regions, in a similar way."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Expanding the DNA Alphabet: 'Extra' DNA Base Found to be Stable in Mammals
A rare DNA base, previously thought to be a temporary modification, has been shown to be stable in mammalian DNA, suggesting that it plays a key role in cellular function.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Controlling Leaf Blotch Disease In Wheat
Scientists have found a genetic mechanism that could stop the spread of a "devastating" disease threatening wheat crops.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Rising Temperatures Predicted to Lower Wheat Yields
An international consortium of researchers has used big data sets to predict the effects climate change on global wheat yields.
Friday, December 26, 2014
UK And India Collaborate On Future-Proof Crops
Drought-tolerant tomatoes, improved wheat and grass pea could provide crops for the future.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Better Understanding of Disease Resistance Genes in Crops
Effector-triggered defence concept describes how plants protect themselves against the apoplast.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Public-private Research Partnership to Support Sustainable Agricultural Systems
The partnership will support projects that will help provide solutions to key challenges affecting the sustainability of the UK crop and livestock sectors.
Friday, May 23, 2014
A Synthetic Biology Approach to Improve Photosynthesis
Assembling a compartment inside chloroplasts of flowering plants has the potential to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Green Vaccination: Boosting Plant Immunity Without Side Effects
A team of international researchers has uncovered a mechanism by which plants are able to better defend themselves against disease causing pathogens.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Rothamsted Research Granted Permission for new GM Field Trial
Permission granted by Defra for Rothamsted to carry out a field trial with GM Camelina plants that produce omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.
Monday, April 28, 2014
BBSRC, NSF Co-Fund International Arabidopsis Resource

Friday, March 14, 2014
Genetic traits in cattle identified that might allow farmers to breed livestock with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis (TB)
The BBSRC-funded scientists compared the genetic code of TB-infected animals with that of disease-free cattle, could help to impact on a disease that leads to major economic losses worldwide.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
UK Establishes Three New Synthetic Biology Research Centres
Bristol, Nottingham and a Cambridge/Norwich partnership will be UK centres for synthetic biology.
Friday, January 31, 2014
£17.7M for Major Long-Term Research Projects to Harness the Power of Bioscience
Research for agriculture, health, alternatives to fossil fuels, and new commercial products.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Crop-Infecting Virus Forces Aphids to Spread Disease
Viruses alter plant biochemistry in order to manipulate visiting aphids into spreading infection.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Octocopter to Monitor Crops
BBSRC has invested in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology to monitor crops and crop experiments as part of several genetic improvement projects.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Scientific News
New Organic Plant Breeding Effort to Produce Novel Varieties and Train New Breeders
A new effort to provide California growers with seeds for tomato, bean, pepper and other crop varieties that are specially bred for organic farming has been launched at UC Davis.
New Organic Plant Breeding Effort Launched
A new effort to provide California growers with seeds for tomato, bean, pepper and other crop varieties that are specially bred for organic farming has been launched at UC Davis.
Red Clover Genome to Help Restore Sustainable Farming
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in collaboration with IBERS, has sequenced and assembled the DNA of red clover to help breeders improve the beneficial traits of this important forage crop.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
GMO Food Animals Should be Judged by Product, Not Process
In a world with a burgeoning demand for meat, milk and eggs, regulatory policies around the use of biotechnologies in agriculture need to be based on the safety and attributes of those foods rather than on the methods used to produce them, says a UC Davis animal scientist.
Cancer-Fighting Tomato Component Traced
The metabolic pathway associated with lycopene, the bioactive red pigment found in tomatoes, has been traced by researchers at the University of Illinois.
TGAC Announces Milestone in Wheat Research
A more complete and accurate wheat genome assembly is being made available to researchers, by The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) on 12 November 2015.
Shedding Light on the Origin of the Date Palm
Researchers also find ‘genetic mutation’ that is responsible for dates’ color.
New Way to Find DNA Damage
University of Utah chemists devised a new way to detect chemical damage to DNA that sometimes leads to genetic mutations responsible for many diseases, including various cancers and neurological disorders.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos