The Italian Almanac

invasion of the thinking plants

Italian News - March 18

The world's first research centre specializing in plant intelligence has started studying the power of green matter in Florence. Stefano Mancuso, the university lecturer running the lab, insisted that 'plant intelligence' is no contradiction in terms and said his team will have lots of botanical behaviour to look at. "We are entering a totally unexplored world," he said.

Plants are actually dynamic, highly sensitive, competitive organisms that carry out sophisticated cost-benefit calculations to adapt rapidly to changing environments, he claimed. The Laboratorio Internazionale di Neurobiologia Vegetale (LINV - International Vegetal Neurobiology Laboratory), is funded by the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze bank and hosted at Florence's Sesto Fiorentino University.

Mancuso will lead a team of six researchers, who will collaborate with experts from top international universities like Cambridge, Harvard and New York (NYU). One of the key areas the lab will study is how plants communicate with each other using chemical, electrical and mechanical signals.

Mancuso said plants use these signals for many things, such as raising the alarm for other members of their species when insects are on the attack. He said the results of the lab's research will be useful for a wide variety of fields, not just agriculture, but refused to make predictions about any potential applications.