London: It's now confirmed. Plants can talk. Researchers at Exeter University in Britain claim to have found that plants can communicate with one another -- in fact, they've for the first time captured such a process on camera.    

To find out how plants talk, the researchers modified a cabbage gene which triggers the production of a gas emitted when a plant's surface is cut or pierced.
   
By adding the protein luciferase -- which makes fireflies glow in the dark -- to the DNA the plants' emissions could be monitored on camera. One cabbage plant had a leaf cut off with scissors and started emitting a gas -- methyl jasmonate -- thereby "telling" its neighbours there may be trouble ahead.
   
Two nearby cabbage plants, which had not been touched, received the message they should protect themselves. They did this by producing toxic chemicals on the leaves to fend off predators such as caterpillars.
   
The researchers say it raises the possibility that plants are all communicating with each other in a complex "invisible language" which we know nothing about.
   
"We have managed to show in a visual way that the gas emitted by plants when they have been wounded affects their neighbours. But at this stage we don't know why.
   
"They could have been trying to alert the plant’s other leaves to the damage and their neighbours have just picked it up, or they for some reason evolved to alert other plants.
   
"It is not clear why that would be beneficial as you would think plants would be in competition with each other. So there's a lot more work to be done," Professor Nick Smirnoff, who led the research, said.

The footage will be shown as part of a three-part series called How to Grow a Planet, starting on Tuesday on 'BBC2' and presented by Professor Iain Stewart.
   
Prof Stewart said: "It's fascinating to realise that there could be a constant chatter going on between different plants, that they can in some way sense chemically what is happening to others, like a  hidden language which could be going on all around us.
   
"Most people assume that plants lead a rather passive life, but in reality they move and sense and communicate. It's almost like they show a kind of intelligence."

(Agencies)