Electrical Signaling Device Developed To Effectively Communicate Plants

In recent research conducted by NTU Singapore researchers have successfully developed an electrical signaling device to effectively communicate useful information to and from plants.  Scientists believe that this innovative approach will help them effectively communicate and utilize plants.

Scientists while working on a project under the direct supervision of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, have successfully developed a device using conformable electrodes to break the communication barrier with plants. The team has successfully practiced this approach by attaching electrodes to a plant “Venus flytrap”.

During the experiment, the researchers attached the electrode to the surface of the Venus flytrap using an adhesive soft and sticky mixture “hydrogel”. After successfully developing an electrical bridge with the Venus flytrap, the scientists believed that this could be a major moment to opportunistically focus on two major things.

  1. Technique to receive signals from plants to understand their response to the environment.
  2. Technique to transmit electrical impulses to plants to manually control their responses according to changing stimuli.

One of the major reasons to assume this innovative approach is more effective than other plant communicating methods is because scientists believe that plants have been using electrical signaling for decades to effectively respond to their surroundings and natural climatic conditions. Therefore, the NTU research team was putting their efforts to develop a device to measure the range of electrical signals produced by the plants to combat changing environments.

Later, the researchers were affirmed to use these electrical ranges to manually control the plant responses according to your needs. They believed that this control over plant responses could create several opportunities to develop a sustainable food production sector with efficient control over diseases and pests.

Moreover, researchers also assume that by the use of artificially induced electrical signals, it will become easier for agriculturists to move to modern technology like drones and other surveillance robots to monitor their fields. Furthermore, plants’ electrical signaling can directly communicate to the robots when to initiate a disease prevention practice and will also reduce the burden of physical crop monitoring.

However, every research has some flaws and weaknesses which make it lazy to adapt and complicated for general agriculturists and farmers. Similarly, for efficient communication, the electrodes must be strongly connected with the surface of plants as plants have very weak electrical signals which can be lost and miscommunicated easily.

Furthermore, researchers have clarified that the attachment of electrodes also depends on the general physical structure of the plant’s surface like hairy, waxy, and irregular surfaces. These types of irregular and sticky surfaces make it difficult for the tiny little electrode to establish a strong grip and a reliable communication pattern.

The detailed experimentation helped the NTU researchers draw an inspirational approach by analyzing the working pattern of electrocardiogram, which also works on the familiar principle. Therefore, researchers have suggested a similar practice for plants just like the electrocardiogram. Some of the major prerequisites are:

  1. To efficiently transmit electrical signals an on-demand plant-specific robot should be created.
  2. Regularly monitor electrical signals coming from plants to monitor crop health.
  3. Development of strong adhesive liquid gel to firmly attach the electrodes to the plant’s surface.

Reference: 

DOI: 10.1038/s41928-020-00530-4

DOI: 10.1002/adma.202007848

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