Study Finds Plants Can Feel Stress

While there are numerous health benefits to following a vegetarian or vegan diet, it turns out that our leafy friends might just be a little more sentient than anyone had previously imagined. New research from the University of Copenhagen suggests that plants feel stress when placed in cold environments, overturning popular beliefs about whether or not flora has feelings.

According to Vice, the new study was published in the Journal of Pineal Research. By monitoring the effects of melatonin on Barley plants, researchers found that the ABA (abscisic acid) plant hormone “plays an important part in responses to environmental stress, as it for example slows plant growth to protect it from the cold conditions in the winter.” In simpler terms, this means that not only do plants feel stress, but specific hormones can also affect the vegetation’s response to that stress.

Before you vow to give up plants forever, however, you should know that the melatonin had a positive effect on the chilled barley plants. Apparently, the hormone “resulted in higher ABA concentration in the drought-primed plants than in the non-primed plants when [exposed] to cold stress.” The combination of ABA and melatonin helped the barley plants to maintain “better water status,” resulting in happier flora across the board.

More than simply giving you a reason to eat fewer leafy greens and worry about your summer garden, the research actually has some very important real world applications.

According to the study’s co-authors, Xiangnan Li and Fulai Liu, “regulating melatonin production in plants via drought priming could be a promising approach to enhancing abiotic stress tolerance of crops in future climate scenarios.” This means that the exciting new study could be an important tool as researchers investigate methods for combating climate change and world hunger through informed farming practices.

Thus, rather than worrying about whether or not your salad lived a stressful life before it arrived on your plate, we suggest celebrating the amazing powers of melatonin with a power nap!