a group of mavericks out of Switzerland have detected a magnetic signal in a plant. Using a highly sensitive magnetometer, an interdisciplinary team of researchers have measured signals from a Venus flytrap of up to .5 picotesla. To make matters even more mind-blowing, this signal is roughly equivalent to the biomagnetic field strength of the human brain. The full report is here.
The findings shine a light on a whole new world of plant communications we never knew was there and paves the path for new approaches to diagnose and treat plant diseases. It’s a parade-worthy “I told you so” for champions of plant intelligence, and a new dawn for how we live in harmony with the green kingdom.
So, why does it matter that a plant has a detectable biomagnetic signal? Well, bioelectromagnetism is the amount of magnetic signal given off by a living thing,
The Venus flytrap boasts three trigger hairs that serve as mechanosensors. When a prey insect touches a trigger hair, an Action Potential is generated and travels along both trap lobes. If a second touch-induced Action Potential is fired within 30 seconds, the energy stored in the open trap is released and the capture organ closes. This is the plant-insect equivalent of a repeat offender. Imprisonment ensues.
Crucial to making these findings was the fact that this electrical activity doesn’t carry into the stalk of traps, which allowed the researchers to isolate the lobe by slicing it from the rest of the plant. Biologically intact, it was then placed on to a sensor.
The readings returned pretty much identical results four times in a row.
The discovery is as huge for biomagnetism in plants as it is for electro-physiology in general. We now have proof of a pathway for long-distance signal propagation between plant cells. Talk amongst your cells.
Both signal a new era of understanding plant systems we are only just coming to grips with.
The report’s introduction ponders, “in the future, magnetometry may be used to study long-distance electrical signaling in a variety of plant species, and to develop noninvasive diagnostics of plant stress and disease.”
With the help of this current research, crops could be scanned for temperature shifts, chemical changes, or pests without having to damage the plants themselves.
Perhaps our best next step is looking at how other species interact with these magnetic fields. Since these fields exist, they may serve some practical purpose. “Plants and insects have co-evolved for millions of years,” explained Crutsinger. “The trap is getting prey. But insects could leverage that to their own benefit as well. They’re super sensitive and they have antennas. How might they cue in on the magn