From “Do Plants Perform Best With Family or Strangers? Researchers Consider Social Interactions” (ScienceDaily, Nov. 9, 2011), we learn:
In the fight for survival, plants are capable of complex social behaviours and may exhibit altruism towards family members, but aggressively compete with strangers.
A growing body of work suggests plants recognize and respond to the presence and identity of their neighbours. But can plants cooperate with their relatives? While some studies have shown that siblings perform best — suggesting altruism towards relatives — other studies have shown that when less related plants grow together the group can actually outperform siblings. This implies the group benefits from its diversity by dividing precious resources effectively and competing less.
A team from McMaster University suggests plants can benefit from both altruism and biodiversity but when these processes occur at the same time, it is difficult to predict the outcome.
We thought they were kidding too, okay? But
Simply put, social environment matters to plants. If we first acknowledge that kin cooperation and resource partitioning are co-occurring, we can begin to address some very important questions,” says Amanda File, a graduate student in the Department of Biology at McMaster.
One of which is, is it reasonable to use terminology developed to explain animal relationships to try to explain plant relationships? Will fungi be next?
“Among these questions is whether there is a link between kin recognition and plant performance, whether plant kin recognition can improve crop yield and how kin recognition shapes communities and ecosystems” says Guillermo Murphy, a graduate student in the Department of Biology at McMaster.
We’re so stodgy and cynical here that we think crop rotation, tilling, irrigation, and fertilizer would be far more useful for getting at a plant’s needs than leafy green psychology. We can always arrange a test, of course.
It could still be a put-on, of course.