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Talking tomatoes: How their communication is influenced by enemies and friends


by Ananya Sen, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Plants produce a range of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds that influence their interactions with the world around them. In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have investigated how the type and amount of these VOCs change based on different features of tomato plants.

The research is published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.

The smell of cut grass is one of the defining fragrances of summer. Smells like that are one of the ways plants signal their injury. Because they cannot run away from danger, plants have evolved to communicate with each other using chemical signals. They use VOCs for a variety of reasons: to help prepare their own defenses, to warn each other of threats, to recruit beneficial soil microbes that can help plants grow, and to alert insect predators that there is a pest chewing on that plant's leaves.

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