Why Plants Panic When It Rains?

Plant rain panic cover

Our Earth is filled with uncountable species of flora and fauna. While it is fairly easy to recognize animals, plants on the other hand really require a sharp eye to be identified and even more so to understand their properties and how they behave as they cannot exhibit physical actions like animals. Study and analysis of plants have been occurring for thousands of years, however, it was only recently that we became aware of the panic that plants display during the rains. Yes, you read that right, plants panic when it rains. But why? and how do we know that?

Panic in plants during rain

This statement sound even more confusing when we consider that like all living things, plants require water to exist, so naturally, they shouldn’t fear the rain, if anything they should be rejoiced by it. But according to the team of international scientists at The University of Western Australia’s School of Molecular Sciences plants reaction to rain is similar to one of the panic.

Bacteria rainwater

Bacteria culture in a sample of rainwater.

That is because just like how some things that can sustain life can kill, plants have a similar understanding of the rain. When it rains, a protein known as Myc2 is said to trigger a chemical chain reaction within the plant that enables the defenses of the plant resulting in delayed flowering or overall slowing the growth of the plant. This protein was discovered recently. Still, why do they panic? According to researchers, there are two reasons.

  • Disease potential: As it cannot be determined from where the water was condensed that resulted in the rain, it can carry deadly viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites. This can be extremely dangerous to plants, as unlike animals they do not have the ability to seek shelter or move away, and forget about removing these pathogens from themselves. Additionally, when the raindrop falls on the ground it splashes and can spread diseases up to 10 meters in the surroundings and this can infect the newer plants as they are most vulnerable to it. This also explained why many plant diseases spread after heavy rainstorms, as even if the water is clean if the raindrop falls on a contaminated leaf, it can still spread the pathogens to nearby plants. This information is truly amazing, as, by understanding which plants compliments the growth of others and fights off certain pathogens, two species can be planted together for the maximum yielding this can help farmers tremendously.
Disease in plants

A diseased leaf.

  • Warning Signal: It is not a surprise that even plants send signals when a possible threat is present in the area, say an elephant uprooting a small tree, it will send a signal that will allow other plants to defend themselves. Similarly, when it rains plants release the jasmonic acid hormone, which is synthesized by the plants specifically to initiate a chain reaction in the neighboring vegetation. This hormone is also released whenever there is an insect attack. By doing so plants, especially the smaller ones ensure the area is healthier overall, because if their surroundings are healthier and aware of the danger they can defend themselves from the pathogens much better.
Jasmonic acid hormone

The molecular structure of the jasmonic acid hormone.

There might be other factors as well that result in such behavior from flora all over the world, it is just that we have not discovered them yet. This also goes on to show that our understanding of the world is severely limited, not in thousands of years we even had an idea that even these living beings could interact with one another and even exhibit emotions (different from us). Even though it is claimed that plants show “panic” when it rains, perhaps it is a wrong way of looking at the findings. It is obvious that this reaction happens, however, it is uncertain if plants recognize the difference between natural and artificial rain. Additionally, no research has been conducted in regards to if defenses are lowered in plants as we water them or they activate their defenses when we dig the soil near them.

Ultimately, this discovery has been really influential and it can give rise to many new practices in plantations. It will also allow farmers and gardens to develop their unique ways to yield more crops, fruits, and flowers in addition to developing a greater understanding of the plants.

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