Known as mycorrhizae, the fungus connects most plants via an underground network. The ability of plants to communicate through the air with the use of emitted chemicals has already been documented. This new study has shown evidence of the role of mycorrhizae in communication.
A research team from the University of Aberdeen devised an experiment to isolate and examine the effects of this underground network of fungi. Five broad bean plants were grown, with three allowed to form the network of fungus and network formation was prevented in the other two.
Covering the plants in bags to prevent any through-the-air communication, the plants were then allowed to be infested with aphids. What was observed was that if the plants were connected by mycorrhizae, the un-infested plant prepared a chemical defence against the aphids. If they were not connected, then no response was observed.
In the past, scientists only though the fungi were there to provide nutrients for the plant. This new finding could be now put to use in crops that suffer from aphid damage by taking advantage of this new found signalling system.