Talking plants will someday tell you what's wrong with the planet

Credit: Tony Larson

Plants are brainless. They literally have no brains, but that doesn't mean that they don't retain knowledge. Over millennia, plants have survived because of their ability to perceive changing environmental factors and adapt. Recently, we discovered that they can even communicate with one another through fungal couriers. An EU-funded study hopes to crack this leafy language so that we too can hear the whipers of the woods.

It might sound like a bundle of tree-huggers out in the wilds of Europe have found a way to get paid to learn Entish. While metaphorically not far off, the actual goal of project PLEASED (a somewhat forced acronym for PLants Employed As SEnsing Devices) is to decipher the electrical activity that occurs in plants when their environment shifts. Rather than verbally speak with the plants, the researchers are employing tech similar to that in an EEG headset to detect the electric impulses which plants emit.

As for what kinds of information can be gleaned from these telepathically-talking plants, researchers are confident that they will be able to detect a wide array of factors. Everything from monitoring pollution levels to precision crop monitoring and even weather research could be carried out with a single sensor plant. On the downside, plants will likely not be able to give detailed metrics on any of the changes they detect. For that sort of information, traditional sensors will still have to fit the bill.

As the people behind project PLEASED put it, if their study is a success, "One day you will step into the garden to look at the flowers — and the flowers will look back at you."

PLEASED, via Youris

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