Brevia

Plants Integrate Information About Nutrients and Neighbors

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Science  25 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5986, pp. 1657
DOI: 10.1126/science.1189736

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Abstract

Animals regularly integrate information about the location of resources and the presence of competitors, altering their foraging behavior accordingly. We studied the annual plant Abutilon theophrasti to determine whether a plant can demonstrate a similarly complex response to two conditions: presence of a competitor and heterogeneous resource distributions. Individually grown plants fully explored the pot by using a broad and uniform rooting distribution regardless of soil resource distributions. Plants with competitors and uniform soil nutrient distributions exhibited pronounced reductions in rooting breadth and spatial soil segregation among the competing individuals. In contrast, plants with competitors and heterogeneous soil nutrient distributions reduced their root growth only modestly, indicating that plants integrate information about both neighbor and resource distributions in determining their root behavior.

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