Do Plants Panic When It Rains?

Plants do panic while you are enjoying a cup of coffee, and it's raining outside.

Do Plants Panic When It Rains?
Little Plants



Raining is refreshing, as you don't need to bother watering your plants. Rainwater is giving you a hand. The rain becomes more enjoyable for you. But what happens to the plants? Do they really enjoy the same way? The answer is a big "No." According to new research, plants are seized with panic when it rains. Although they need water to survive, they are afraid of rain.   


Reasons behind the plants panic

You must think that plants love rain as they need water for sure. In spite of being heavily dependent on water, plants have an unusual reaction to the rainstorm. The researchers' team combines scholars from the University of Western Australia's School of Molecular Sciences, Lund University, and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. The team worked hard to investigate this reaction.  

Harvey Millar is a professor at the University of Western Australia and a principal author of this research. He said, "As to why plants would need to panic when it rains, strange as it sounds, rain is the leading cause of disease spreading between plants. When a raindrop splashes across a leaf, tiny droplets of water ricochet in all directions. These droplets can contain bacteria, viruses, or fungal spores. A single droplet can spread these up to 10 meters to surrounding plants." 

The study resulted in an outstanding discovery. The team focused on Myc2, a protein that starts a chain reaction in plants. The ultimate result of this chain reaction involves a large number of genes other proteins. Combinedly, all these allow the plants to activate their defense system through a series of chemical signals. The signals make the plants capable of taking preparation for potential diseases. You can compare these signals to human brain signals that control our body activities. For example, the plants can delay their ability to flower or slow down their growth by sending chemical signals.  


How plant diseases spread?

The adverse effect of rain is that rainwater can spread many harmful elements like viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites over long distances. As the plants can not shift one place to another seeking safe shelters, they become vulnerable to a wide range of pathogens. As an example, you can take fungal spores. When rainwater splashes, fungal spores can travel from one plant to another. By landing on a leaf via a water droplet, fungi can infect a new plant. 


The rate of plant diseases increases after rainstorms. Why does this happen? A research team from the University of Liege and MIT took the question seriously and started research on this issue. They noticed that when raindrops keep falling on the contaminated leaves, pathogens get the chance to spread more rapidly. This instance is an alert to the farmers and gardeners. They need to change their planting strategies to reduce the spread of disease.   

According to MIT professor Lydia Bourouiba, anyone can prepare the plants in this case. She said, "We can start thinking of how to smartly reinvent polyculture, where you have alternating species of plants with complementary mechanical properties at various stages of their growth. Polyculture is an old concept if you look at native cultures, but this is one way to scientifically show that by alternating plants in one field, you can mechanically and naturally reduce the range of transmission of a pathogen during rainfall." 


Sending a Warning

The plants send many chemicals during the chain reaction. Among them, the jasmonic acid hormone is a noticeable one. It sends signals to the other plants about the incoming danger. The hormones signaling mechanism allows other plants to take preparation. The fact may seem unbelievable to you. But if you consider the ecosystem, all these make sense. 

Another surprising fact that the shrub itself gets benefits when it warns other plants before rainfall. Because all the plants start their chain reaction as a precaution against potential pathogens, this combined protection shield helps the vulnerable shrub at the same time. This defense system makes the entire area healthier. 

The research team completes the study to understand how plants react to rain and other parts of the environment as well. Humans depend on many crops and other plants. The team believes that their research will improve them.