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Plants talk through their very own underground phone lines

PhD defence, Wednesday 20 November 2019, Carmina Falcato Cabral

2019.11.20 | Helle Karvonen

Carmina Falcato Cabral

Plants are connected through a network of fungi that act, essentially, as phone lines. In fact, most of the plants around us are actually using these connections to communicate in the same way that we do. These plants warn their neighbours about pests coming their way to help them get ready to fight whatever new attack might arise, according to findings from Carmina Falcato Cabral's PhD. Fungi that live inside plants’ roots extend outward and connect to the roots of other plants. Through these, fungi have been transporting nutrients and water between plants, however, these have now been shown to be used for message sharing. Carmina’s research has shown that when faced with an aphid or fungal attack, the attacked plant sends messages to its neighbouring plants, allowing these to start defending themselves. These messages cause changes which are reflected both on the filaments connecting plants and the surrounding soil. These are perceived by the connected neighbouring plant, warning it. This warned plant jumpstarts its defence, either by perceiving the changes in the filaments or by a putative signalling molecule traveling these phone lines. So, essentially, plants are talking, but what they’re saying is still a mystery. 

Understanding how this messaging system works could allow a pre-defence program for plants to defend themselves before the attack actually occurs. In this way, we could not only use the crops relation to these fungi to assure adequate plant nutrition, but also as auto-programmed defence barriers.

The PhD degree was completed at the Department of Agroecology, Science and Technology, Aarhus University.

This résumé was prepared by the PhD student.

Time: Wednesday, 20 November 2019 at 10:00
Place: Auditorium Flakkebjerg, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University
Title of PhD thesis: Inter-plant communication through the Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Hyphosphere   
Contact information: Carmina Falcato Cabral, e-mail: carminafc@agro.au.dk

Members of the assessment committee:
Professor Iver Jakobsen,  University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Dr. Angela Hodge, Department of Biology, University of York, United Kingdom
Senior Scientist Henrik Skovgård (chair), Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University
Main supervisor:
Associate Professor Sabine Ravnskov, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University
Co-supervisor
Associate Professor Bernd Wollenweber, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University
Dr. Carla António, ITQB-NOVA, Portugal

Language: The PhD dissertation will be defended in English

The defence is public.
The PhD thesis is available for reading at the Graduate School of Science and Technology/GSST, Ny Munkegade 120, building 1521, 8000 Aarhus C.

PhD defence
12183 / i43