field horticulture
- By Fred Field

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This debate has been going on for so long now it is convoluted with a lot of theories on what is the basis of intelligence; is it memory; is it DNA; is it a day to day plan to handle environmental problems? we can produce a page full of computations and possible scenarios and what makes it difficult is scientists differ on what actually constitutes a brain[we have the same problem with humansĒĒ] so we allow the assumption that when born our brain absorbs information and generally develops our future based on what we are taught and that is fully understood and quite simple; but plant intelligence is something far more complex; a young tree doesnít have half a dozen old wise trees telling it the pitfalls of life but it has computer memory stored in its DNA; which puts it in the rudimentary intelligence basket of mutation; habitat; environmental and solving predatory issues; so we can now be a bit bolder and accept that plant neurobiology is here to stay and we can be thankful for the outstanding work done by Canadian scientists over 3 years on the work done on DNA being transferred to mycelium via tree  roots and then transferred back to young tree seedlings vital collective information which will benefit the progress of same.and it may supply clues as to how trees that were buried for 50;000 years under a 1000ft of ice how they actually survived; firstly if the genetic information was stored in the roots; plus any mycelium around same would be sort of cocooned in an inviroment  insulated by ice placing the DNA in a state of suspended animation ;after the ice age and the temperature rise to some normality; information would be passed back to the roots to release stored carbohydrates and the whole process would start again; it certainly did not start with standing trees the cell structure would have imploded and the chance of seeds surviving under those condition would be Zip; It is worth mentioning at this stage that a certain amount of warmth would in places be permentating up from within in the earth and with the roots and mycilium insulated with the ice; preservation of the roots etc would have been possible in the form of inertia;[Sort of suspended animation ] and of course there is the other scenario as discussed in previous debates is that they knew it was coming and prepared accordingly and a example of that is the  maple family in north America;they anticipated the advent of the later ice ages by storing copious amounts of syrup which acts as an antifreeze in the cell structure which protects the tree; again we have a situation of the appearance of monocots and dicots [plants and trees] and it is fair to say conditions were pretty good but as time progressed environmental changes took place which would threatened their existence which brings us straight back to how does a plant mutate and change the DNA pattern; this could only be done by some form of cognition information of perceiving things and sets about a plan to rectify same ; now if we go back further to the cyclad family of palms 350 million years; they didnít have much competition but had a problem of how to disperse their seed in the deltas on the Nile; but they did recognize one tool and that was water and came up with an inverted seed with a hard case and stored liquid on the inside and when the seed fell it generally finished up in the water and away it went; fairly hazardous as the water in deltas shifts around a lot; where is all this going; if you pay a visit to the islands in the pacific you will observe the coconut palms 20 metres inland grow straight up; the ones that grown on the foreshore all lean out towards the water or hang over it WHY?it recognizes not just water but moving water  and there is a big difference; it is the chance to disperse its off spring on a journey to proliferate; the coconut rolls down the beach covered with a thick layer of copra material; drifts out with the currents; roams the high seas; the copro falls off the coconut becomes more buoyant; the odds now become greater to wash up on an atoll or island and the whole process starts again; May I emphasize we can safely say when the  seed rolls up the beach it will grow and the tree will lean out as stated but if the gale blows the seed further inland; will grow vertical; no question the sound of water triggers the same mechanism as it did in the deltas a bit like severe wind on trees grow stronger cells on one side to correct prevailing strong force of the wind; which is just another example of some thing not fully  understood ; Now I have digressed from whence we started of the perfuncury actions of plants and DNA.      The question does arise as to our DNA which is very convoluted from generation to generation but all we really inherit are physical attributes not a lot of intelligence; we are taught that; but plants are a different kettle of fish and will give you some simple examples of how plants work out strategies e.g. Acacias  in Africa; they are an old and ancient branch of trees and grow in harsh conditions and were quite happy before the arrival of giraffes who as they evolved their necks extended higher and higher which enabled them to dine high up the acacias which presented a problem somebody coming along each day eating the factory; Plan 1 produced very large thorns; plan 2 when the animal starts munching the leaves after 30 seconds it releases a toxin and the animal moves to the next branch and to complicate it the large thorns are hollow and ants reside inside and their role is quite simple; if other plants try to grow underneath they go down and spray  a type of toxin on any plants they attempt to grow underneath; this clearly establishes  an intelligence to deal with a problem but maintain a relationship or should I say a partnership between Giraffes to proliferate seeds and ants as a back up security; so 3 parties benefit; but the tree has mutated; the info hasnít come from stored DNA but a reaction to a problem; but once the problem is overcome the info is now stored in the DNA but letís look closer into the day to day running of a plant which is just physiology not fully explained but it is well established that the regulation of the saccharide metabolism may provide additional examples of integrating; storing and accessing information on long term state of the plants metabolism but the most serious tasks of a plants life is achieving balance and it has to do this literally on 2 fronts; during the day the plant must calculate how much carbon [starch] according to expected need in the night; starch mobilization at night is essentially linear; resulting in nearly consumption of the starch reserve  during every night; thus amazingly the plant  is Able to measure the amount of starch at the end of the day and anticipate the length of the night; so like it or not the plant is capable of precise calculus or has a stored memory of the length of light every day of the year; we now know that fruit trees can predict weather patterns 2 years in advance and grow accordingly; and suggest we temporary remove the DNA factor and put in a box   called keep it simple; DNA needs protein and protein needs instruction and  it was definitely  the first computer on the planet but back to how do we define intelligence in plants; very very careful we still have the same problem Darwin had ;God hanging onto his walking frame breathing fire and damnation not to question his great work and humans generally will never accept that plants are more than intelligent  than us mortals and the proof of that is they have been around for 600 million years survived ice ages all sorts of disasters  they have seen the arrival of insects; birds; mammals and have survived all that and you need a lot of intelligence to do that; just remember if they disappear we are finished.  We have a cortex protected by a skull to store our little library ;Plants have  massive cortex of roots plus every branch; leaf has a wealth of stored knowledge far more than us and as 50% of our DNA is the same that is in mycelium  or a banana it would be remiss of me to suggest that plants are our great great ancestors;; but one is always open to suggestions; please be my guest and for those that canít go further back than the primates put your return address on the back of you envelope;

Now Mia Molvray in her essay  states that examining alternative functional definitions of intelligence is a quality that is either present or absent; as that implies it wonít accept cognitive intelligence and plants are mindless masters; well Prof Wildermere of Belgium research papers shows a different approach and is critical of way some scientists try to distant themselves about what actually constitutes the primary action of a brain and where it resides; and in plants it could be in the roots; branches; the cells.; Now let me repeat the afore mentioned in another draft the example that asks a number of questions is a trial in Indonesia where a weed mimicked the rice plant; looked the same; produced a seed that looked the same but was of no use; the scientists genetically engineered a rice plant with a pink stem; to assist the women deciding what to harvest; the hybrids were planted and 4 months later the weed mimicked the pink color; the first question arises ; HOW; mimicry is a craft that plants have evolved with not only with other plants but insects with a lot of success; and Prof Wildermere proposed that as all plants have types of photo cells as part of their day to day operations, that it was more than possible that some type of visual information is converted and stored; [ humans have eyes with photo cells which sends a picture to our brain which computes what we are seeing] because with all mimicry it is to the plants advantage and when plants mutate to achieve that. Some sort of thought process happens which will always be to advantage to plant and as we donít want to separate the factory process of Photosynthesis; auxin canalization,the biosythesis of nucleotides which brings another whole dimension of  the action of  enzymes; have been wading ;[when I say wading just wish I had taken more note of microbiology when I was a student at Massey instead of constantlydriving the lenses through oil immersion plates ?} through Lubert Stryers 800 pages onthe matter looking for some connections but it is extremely complex but his take on the molecular structure of plants is a bit more straight forward; but still leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions;again I have mentioned this many times; scientists are very good at understanding their pet topic but donít collate with other scientists how to build bridges between all the factors because they are all dependant on each other  Why scientists will always differ on a number of questions; such as is memory intelligence, the plant doesnít have a brain; It canít think, But it can plan, can interact with other plants; can survive where we canít, again have been fortunate enough to met some scientists that believe like I do that to step of the board walk and dispute areas of intelligence in plants is likely to bring a barrage of ridicule from theologians; scientists who look in the mirror but never behind it,  but back to Mia Molgrave and her prognosis that plants are mindless, what she infers that there is a difference; makes  a demarcation line between the 2 factors by saying there is no cognitive thought with plants thus completely ignoring all the aforementioned evidence of plants ability to plan, coordinate and to any obstacle that comes other the hill; all this when her fellow scientists around her are questioning the validity of this theory; it reeks of the theory, ďWe donít quite understand it so put it back in its box,  much safer thereĒ the day will come and we will understand it and it will fill 10,000 pages or 1 gigabyte,  but will we understand it, YES, but will we accept it? Probably not.

Fred Field 16/10/2018  [draft]
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