If plants could talk, they would definitely say, “Touch me not!” Researchers from La Trobe University found that plants are highly sensitive to touch, and repeated touching could significantly affect their growth. The results are published in The Plant Journal.

La Trobe researchers, Drs Jim Whelan and Yan Wang, revealed the results of their study, which observed the responses of Arabidopsis to various test touch stimuli. Whelan said that even the slightest touch turns on a major genetic defense response, which when repeated, slows down plant growth.

“Within 30 minutes of being touched, 10 per cent of the plant’s genome is altered…This involves a huge expenditure of energy which is taken away from plant growth. If the touching is repeated, then plant growth is reduced by up to 30 per cent,” Whelan explained.

Wang further explained that the reason behind the strong reaction of plants to touch is yet to be revealed, their research findings have led to a deeper understanding of the genetic defense mechanisms involved particularly in opening up new approaches to reducing sensitivity and optimising growth.