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Gil's Heros, Advancing Plant Sciences Award - First Place Middle School

"Knock Knock." "Who's There?": A Study of Root Communication

Plants and the Environment
Noemi Celani

Lara Huetter

This project explores choice in root behavior, and whether roots will move towards or away from companion plants based on the species of companion. A plant’s roots were given the choice to grow into an empty pot or pot occupied by one of three types of companion plants (pea, onion, or kale). Following an 8-week growth period, roots were unearthed and analyzed for location of tap root, total root length, total number of root tips, and total number of branching points. Results showed more study plant roots grew into the empty pot when the occupied pot contained a pea or kale plant, but into the occupied pot when it contained an onion plant. Findings suggest that roots are specific in their growing habits, moving and growing differently depending on neighboring plants. Future research in this area could help gardeners create more efficient layouts, help develop agricultural models to boost crop yield, and better understand how adding different species of plants can help or harm an ecosystem.

Project presentation

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Lab journal excerpts

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Research paper

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2 thoughts on ““Knock Knock.” “Who’s There?”: A Study of Root Communication

  1. Very thorough presentation – thank you! Excellent use of replicates and multiple measurement techniques.

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