Brazilian biologists have found that tomato fruits alert other parts of the bush and other plants to pests by using electrical signals. The research results were published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.
For the last 350 million years, there has been an evolutionary race: plants produce toxins, fill their cells with inedible silicon particles and warn each other about enemies using various signals. Herbivores, with the help of various enzymes, neutralize plant poisons and neutralize particles that interfere with them.
Gabriela Reisig from the Federal University of Pelotas (Brazil) and her colleagues found that plants and their fruits, at the first sign of danger, can also warn each other with the help of electrical signals.
During the study, scientists placed several tomatoes in a so-called Faraday cage. This device isolates objects in it from external electromagnetic fields. This makes it possible to accurately measure even the weakest electric fields from biological objects.
As soon as the caterpillars of cotton scoops appeared on the fruits - dangerous pests of tomatoes - ripe and unripe tomatoes began to generate different electrical signals. Once in other parts of the plant, these signals changed their vital functions - for example, plant cells began to produce an increased amount of hydrogen peroxide and other substances that scare away caterpillars.
Scientists suggest that the main channel for the transmission of electrical impulses is the cells of the vascular tissue of plants, which have a relatively low electrical resistance. The researchers hope that further study of these signals will help to understand what other role they may play in the life of tomatoes and other crops, as well as to create methods for managing these signals. Reisig and her colleagues hope that scientists and farmers, thanks to their work, will be able to flexibly manage the ripening of fruits.