Weekly Roundup – Walking Houseplants, Machine Learning, and More: Plant News for December 1-7, 2018

This article is part of our new weekly plant news roundup, brought to you thanks to our partners at Earth.com.

 

Wheat Plants can Change their Defenses Based on Attacker Type

When plants are threatened by garden pests, they release chemical compounds that help them defend themselves. Researchers knew that maze (corn) could switch which chemicals it used based on attacker type. This week, researchers from University of Bern and the Max Planck Institute published a study demonstrating that wheat plants can do the same thing.

One form of the chemical helps repel caterpillars, the other defends against aphid attacks. Scientists call these similar traits convergent evolution, because multiple plants have evolved the same trait independently of each other.

Read more about wheat’s defensive systems on Earth.com.

 

 

Researchers Built a Plant that Can Guide Itself to Sunlight

Researchers are coming up with amazing ways to help plants thrive. While saving dying houseplants might not be as dire of a problem as helping crops survive climate change, it’s still a very worthy cause! Researchers from MIT have created a plant (called Elowan for the plant-like race in the Starfight computer game) that can roll itself towards sunlight as needed.

Electrodes in the plant’s stem can monitor the plant’s needs and react accordingly. The researchers say that cyborgs aren’t the only thing coming – plant/machine combinations are certainly in our future.

Read more about plants and science on Earth.com.

 

 

christmas trees unrpotected

Machine Learning Can Help Endangered Species

We love talking about the intersection of technology and biology at PlantSnap – that’s what we do with our plant ID app! Researchers at the University of Maryland have created a machine learning algorithm designed to help identify species that should qualify for the IUCN Red List.

This is important because only about 5% of all known plant species have been assessed for the IUCN. Many endangered plants and animals might be sitting around unprotected because it’s so expensive to assess them. The new machine learning program takes open source data and uses it to make predictions of how at risk a given species is.

“Our method isn’t meant to replace formal assessments using IUCN protocols. It’s a tool that can help prioritize the process, by calculating the probability that a given species is at risk,” explained Professor Espíndola.

Read more about the intersection of conservation and technology on Earth.com.

 

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