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Plants Perform Arithmetic To Survive

An intriguing discovery was made just the other day in the field of biology in regards to how plants function during the evening.

Plants have the ability to make precise, and complex, mathematical solutions in order to ensure they have enough food to last the evening until the next day. Even if the night ends up coming sooner than the plants had calculated, such as an overcast evening, certain phases of the moon, etc, they can still prepare for the next day.

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In simple terms, the plants perform arithmetic division to help them decide how to use their starch resources so that they run out of food at the exact moment dawn arrives. During the day, plants use the sun as their food resource; converting carbon dioxide into sugars and starch. Once night falls, the plants solely rely on their stores of starch to survive.

The plant’s leaves calculate the amount of starch left in their stores, and estimate the time until dawn arrives. According to scientific research, plants have an internal clock very similar to our own, which allows them to make exact estimates.


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Mathematical modeller Professor Martin Howard from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, was excited about the findings. The John Innes Centre was the facility who first made the groundbreaking discovery.

“This is the first concrete example in a fundamental biological process of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation.”

This discovery will go a long way towards helping farmers maximize crop yields each year. Learning more about how plants work is vital to a farm’s sustainability.


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Professor Allison Smith, a metabolic biologist also of the John Innes Centre, echoed that sentiment.

“The capacity to perform arithmetic calculation is vital for plant growth and productivity. Understanding how plants continue to grow in the dark could help unlock new ways to boost crop yield.”

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