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Research in neurobiology shows intelligence in plant life
by Global Good News staff writer
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22 May 2013
Studies in plant neurobiology have shown that plants are capable of many intelligent functions, including the ability to process complex information, explore their environment, and react to external stimuli. Researchers have documented that plants can learn and remember. They seek goals, assess errors, and communicate with each other. Their intelligence can be seen in many specific activities.
During a recent conference session in the Netherlands exploring the role of plants (Dravyaguna) in Maharishi Ayur-Veda* health care, Dr Peter Swan cited details from several different studies that support this understanding.
Dr Swan, an expert in Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture, brought out a number of interesting examples of plant intelligence, some of which have been described in previous articles:
∙ Netherlands: Doctors' conference considers role of Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture in health
∙ Plants are in charge of their own nutrient production cycle
∙ Research documents invincible defence mechanisms in plants
A few further examples from Dr Swan's talk:
The process of 'plant succession' describes the nature of plants to evolve in a particular microclimate. In barren soil, first simple weeds grow. The next year, when the soil is more fertile and contains more microorganisms, longer-lasting weeds grow. Then grasses take over. The next year shrubs and small trees emerge. This evolutionary growth cycle continues until the soil is hosting plants that reach a maximum height for that specific area.
As plants in an area become successively more complex, soil complexity also increases. In order to survive, plants require fungal mycorrhizae around their roots, which Dr Swan described as 'communities' of very fine microscopic organisms (fungi) in relationship to specific plants; the microorganisms colonize the plants' roots, and a web or network forms extending out into the soil. Healthy soil contains huge quantities of organic microorganisms, Dr Swan said, also describing how restoring barren soil requires providing soil organisms, for example in the form of compost. This process is considered at least as important, if not more so, as providing water.
Plants have been observed communicating with each other—about pests, soil hydration, nutrients, etc. Insects and plants use a 'voicemail' system to communicate and leave messages, Dr Swan said. He used an example from a plant biology researcher to illustrate how root-eating animals change the chemistry of the leaf, which in turn causes leaf-eaters to go elsewhere.
Messages from insects, plants, and fungi are embedded in the soil and influence future generations, passed along by the fungal mycorrhizae. A new generation of plants can tell whether the former was suffering from leaf-eaters or root-eaters, both of which significantly change the fungal community in the soil and affect the growth and chemistry of the next generation of plants and insects.
The push-pull method of pest management in organic farming is a coordinated effort between the farmer and the crop. The 'push' aspect comes rows of plants that emit pest-repelling compounds, which are set in between the crop rows. The 'pull' aspect of this method stems from plants that attract and trap pests, being grown around the perimeter of a crop area. In this way a crop, in conjunction with the efforts of other plants, can take care of itself.
Dr Swan quoted one of the ancient Vedic texts: 'Plants have consciousness and are capable of feeling the sense of pleasure and pain' (Vrikshayurveda, 1.9); and noted modern research findings that 'plants respond to kindness and have complex relationships with all the soil organisms that they manage and are the masters of.'
He used these various examples, and many others throughout his lecture, to illustrate the 'great intelligence at every level in the environment around us, just as there is inside us'.
* Ayur-Veda is the world's oldest, most comprehensive system of natural medicine, which originated in the Vedic civilization of ancient India. Maharishi Ayur-Veda is the modern restoration by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of the complete, authentic practice of Ayurveda as recorded in the Vedic texts.
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