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Is it possible for spinach to communicate through email?

Answer: Yes.

spinach growing in a garden
Shutterstock
A study has recently come to light in which scientists taught spinach — yes, the leafy green vegetable — to send emails. The Internet is, unsurprisingly, thrilled.

Per Mashable, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that when spinach roots come into contact with nitroaromatics, a type of compound, the leaves of the plant emit a specific signal. An infrared camera was used to detect that signal and send the scientists an email alert, essentially turning the plants into “infrared communication platforms that can send information to a smartphone.”

The purpose of the study was to use spinach as a non-invasive way of detecting explosive materials in the ground. Nitroaromatics are a compound found in many explosives such as landmines, so if there are any nearby, the plants will encounter the chemicals in the groundwater.  

The environmental benefits of this study, however, could go far beyond just detecting explosives. “Plants are very environmentally responsive,” Professor Michael Strano, the study’s lead, told Euronews. “They know that there is going to be a drought long before we do. They can detect small changes in the properties of soil and water potential. If we tap into those chemical signalling pathways, there is a wealth of information to access.”

 

Plant-human communication is finally here...and it's wonderfully weird. �� Spinach has been engineered to send emails when it finds specific compounds. This tech could be used to detect landmines, pollution, and even upcoming droughts. The ultimate superfood...! In full �� — euronews Living (@euronewsliving) February 1, 2021
 

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