How Plants Compete for Underground Real Estate Affects Climate Change and Food Production
Published:07 Jan.2021    Source:Princeton University

You might have observed plants competing for sunlight -- the way they stretch upwards and outwards to block each other's access to the sun's rays -- but out of sight, another type of competition is happening underground. In the same way that you might change the way you forage for free snacks in the break room when your colleagues are present, plants change their use of underground resources when they're planted alongside other plants.

In a paper published today in Science, an international team of researchers led by Princeton graduate student Ciro Cabal sheds light on the underground life of plants. Their research used a combination of modeling and a greenhouse experiment to discover whether plants invest differently in root structures when planted alone versus when planted alongside a neighbor.