Do Plants Always Compete for Resources?

Researchers have discovered that mustard seedlings can recognize their "siblings" and won't compete with them so fiercely for resources.
Researchers have discovered that mustard seedlings can recognize their "siblings" and won't compete with them so fiercely for resources.

The world of plants appears to be a peaceful one, but under the surface, a lot of "fighting" can take place. In most environments, a plant will grow its roots as quickly as possible in order to grab as much sustenance as possible. But even in nature, blood -- or the equivalent in plants -- is thicker than water.

In a study of 3,000 mustard plants, scientists at the University of Delaware learned that the plants recognize others grown from the same seedlings and won't fight so hard for survival. Instead, they grow shallower root systems and even intertwine leaves in order to share with their "brothers and sisters."

Scientists believe that the mustard plants can recognize particular chemical signals coming from one another's roots. Although the results are preliminary and don't necessary occur across all plant life, the researchers suggested that the evidence of cooperation could lead to increased crop success in the future, as well as better ways to raise plants at home.

A planet of plants:

  • Although there are more than 80,000 edible plant species on Earth, 90 percent of all plant-derived food comes from just 30 of them.

  • Rainforests are believed to hold the promise of a range of medicinal plants, but 99 percent of all rainforest plants have not been studied for such use.

  • Of all plant life on Earth, only 15 percent of it is found on dry land.

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    • Researchers have discovered that mustard seedlings can recognize their "siblings" and won't compete with them so fiercely for resources.
      Researchers have discovered that mustard seedlings can recognize their "siblings" and won't compete with them so fiercely for resources.