What plant roots know?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Despite their paramount role in plant life, the study of roots has been largely neglected until recently. Here, I shortly describe a few newly-discovered abilities of plants to undergo adaptive changes and execute developmental decisions based on roots’ perception of non-resource information pertaining to imminent challenges and opportunities. Seemingly simple in their morphology and architecture and lacking central information-processing centres, roots are able to sense and integrate complex cues and signals over time and space that allow plants to perform elaborate behaviours analogous, some claim even homologous, to those of intelligent animals. Although our knowledge of root behaviour is rapidly expanding, further understanding of its underlying mechanisms is largely preliminary, calling for detailed investigation of the involved cues, signals and information processing controls, as well as their implications for plant development, growth and reproduction under realistic ecological and agricultural settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-133
Number of pages8
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • Environmental information
  • Evolutionary ecology
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Plant roots
  • Root communication
  • Sensory ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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