The Language of Plants

Corey McGarvey and Rob Player at LRSEF
Corey McGarvey (right) with Rob Player, the Junior Plant Sciences second-place winner

Corey McGarvey performed an experiment to find out if plants could communicate with each other through the air.

McGarvey, who entered the 2016 fair as an eighth grader at St. Francis of Assisi, planted lima beans close to each other but in separate pots so their roots could not touch. He watered the plants in one pot with salt water and the plants in the other pot with regular water. Since lima beans have a low tolerance for salt, the plants watered with salt water were in danger.

The salt-stressed plants warned the plants in the other pot that danger was near. The plants in the other pot started growing stronger in order to “prepare for battle,” as McGarvey said.

He said this experiment could be useful for farmers. Since some farms are near roads that are salted in the winter, the plants on the farm can suffer when the salt washes off into the farmland. McGarvey suggested having patches of plants that are watered with salt water around the farmland so the other plants could grow stronger and withstand the salt from the roads.

McGarvey won first place in the Junior Plant Sciences category for his project.