Plants Do Math & Tell Time


From BBC News as reported by Greenhouse Management, a trade publication

[Editor’s Note: Plants have the ability to do many things including making us happy and giving us oxygen to breath. Now we’re learning they have other mysterious capabilities as well.]

Plants have a built-in capacity to do math, which helps them regulate food reserves at night, research suggests. United Kingdome scientists say they were “amazed” to find an example of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation in biology. Mathematical models show that the amount of starch consumed overnight is calculated by division in a process involving leaf chemicals, a John Innes Centre team reports in eLife journal.

The scientists studied the plant Arabidopsis, which is regarded as a model plant for experiments. Overnight, when the plant cannot use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch, it must regulate its starch reserves to ensure they last until dawn. Experiments by scientists at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, show that to adjust its starch consumption so precisely, the plant must be performing a mathematical calculation – arithmetic division. “They’re actually doing math in a simple, chemical way – that’s amazing, it astonished us as scientists to see that,” study leader Prof Alison Smith told BBC News. Click here to read the rest of the article.

In more news as reported by Inside Grower
Does your salad know what time it is? Researchers at Rice University and the University of California at Davis say that many vegetables maintain internal clocks even after being harvested and they might be healthier for you because of it.

“Vegetables and fruits don’t die the moment they are harvested,” explained Rice biologist Janet Braam. “They respond to their environment for days, and we found we could use light to coax them to make more cancer-fighting antioxidants at certain times of day.” Janet is a professor and chair of Rice’s Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

Janet’s team simulated day-night cycles of light and dark to control the internal clocks of fruits and vegetables, including cabbage, carrots, squash and blueberries. The research is a follow-up to her team’s award-winning 2012 study on the ways that plants use their internal circadian clocks to defend themselves from hungry insects. The new findings suggest that storing fruits and vegetables in dark trucks, boxes and refrigerators may reduce their ability to keep daily rhythms and make antioxidants.

“It’s exciting to think that we may be able to boost the health benefits of our produce simply by changing the way we store it,” explained Danielle Goodspeed, a Rice graduate student and lead author on the study. Read more about the research here.