Study: Plants Show Panic-Like Reaction to Rain

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. subject / səbˈdʒɛkt / (v) – to put something under a certain condition

    The animals were subjected to a harsh procedure during the experiment.

  2. simulated / ˈsɪm yə leɪt ɪd / (adj) – created to look real

    In school, pilots experience a simulated flight before being allowed to operate a real aircraft.

  3. physiological / ˌfɪz i əˈlɒdʒ ɪ kəl / (adj) – describing something that is related to bodily functions

    Shaking is a normal physiological reaction when someone is afraid.

  4. cope / koʊp / (v) – to deal with a difficult situation or try to find ways to solve a problem

    She was feeling homesick while studying overseas, but she coped well by regularly calling her family and friends.

  5. stunt / stʌnt / (v) – to stop or slow down the progress or development of something

    Unhealthy diets can stunt children’s growth.


Read the text below.

Plants showered by rain go through a panic-like state, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed.

Scientists discovered that being sprinkled with water causes a chain of chemical changes in plants similar to how they react when sensing danger. Harvey Millar, one of the study’s authors, said that rainwater can spread bacteria, viruses, or other harmful particles when droplets bounce from one plant to another. Millar and his team believe that when plants sense such hazards, a warning system within them activates.

To study this reaction, the team subjected some plants to a simulated rain shower using a bottle spray. During the first 10 minutes of the fake rain shower, the scientists observed reactions from hundreds of the plants’ genes, which caused temporary changes in the proteins and hormones within the plants. The researchers explained that the reaction is triggered by a powerful protein known as Myc2.

Myc2 also causes the production of jasmonic acid, which controls several physiological processes in plants that are related to growth and reaction to stress. When jasmonic acid travels through the air, it serves as plants’ way to communicate danger to one another. Through this chemical, a plant could inform other plants about what is happening around them and how it is coping with the stressful situation.

According to Millar, the chain of reactions that their team observed is the complex defense that plants use to protect themselves since they are unable to move away from danger. The study noted, however, that despite having this remarkable ability, repeated and excessive contact with water can stunt the growth of plants and delay their flowering.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• How do you think the findings of this study can help plant growers? Discuss.
• What can the researchers do to enable plant growers to use their study’s findings (e.g. release infographics, conduct workshops)? Explain.

Discussion B

• Do you think scientists should give studies on plants the same importance as studies on animals? Why or why not?
• In your opinion, what about plants should scientists study more (e.g. prolonging plants’ life, different uses of plants)? Discuss.