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Binary Decisions in Maize Root Behavior: Y-Maze System as Tool for Unconventional Computation in Plants
Ken Yokawa, Neven Derrien-Maze, Stefano Mancuso and František Baluška

Sessile plants regulate their growth in response to many environmental factors. Numerous signaling molecules are utilized to transmit information not only at the subcellular level but also among plant individuals in ecosystem. In the last 30 years, studies revealed that plants produce diverse volatile compounds spreading into the atmosphere in response to stress conditions. These stress-induced volatiles, such as ethylene, methyl-jasmonate, ether and many others, act as ‘infochemicals’ for the long-distance plant communication. Underground, in the soil, roots are also sensitive to many volatiles. However, it is unknown how volatiles affect root growth and behavior. Plant roots are guided by numerous external factors and stimuli (e.g., nutrient, water, oxygen and chemicals) in order to find the most favorable way to grow. In this report, simple experimental Y-maze system is introduced to analyze the root-decision behavior of maize roots. This simple, but powerful system allowed us to investigate binary decisions of maize roots challenged via well-characterized volatiles. In future, this ‘Y-maze’ system will be further elaborated, allowing experimental analysis of unconventional computations in plants.

Keywords: Roots, volatiles, root behavior, Y-maze, plant root computing

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