Do Plants Get Fevers? Unveiling the Secret Lives of Plants with Temperature

People always talk about “burning” discoloration. Once you have a fever, your limbs will feel sore and you will feel dizzy. But if we look beyond humans, do plants also have fevers?
Yes, plants can get fever too. The premise is that plants have body temperature.

This phenomenon is in great contrast with people’s life experience. After all, all kinds of vegetables, whether they are in vegetable fields or have been stacked in major markets and supermarkets, feel cold to the touch. Therefore, everyone judges that plants There is no temperature.

But there is a problem here. Humans are endothermic animals, and their body temperature remains at 36 to 37°C all year round. The way to judge whether a plant is warm is to touch it directly with your hands. At this time, people use their own body temperature as a reference. If it is higher than their own body temperature, they judge that the plant has temperature; otherwise, they judge that the plant does not have temperature. This method is not scientific. If we want to accurately obtain the temperature of plants, the scientific method is to use an infrared thermometer. Scientists used infrared thermometers to monitor the temperature changes of wheat throughout the day and found that during the booting stage of wheat, when the temperature difference in one day was 12°C, the temperature difference in wheat reached 19°C.

Research has found that plant body temperature is usually close to the air temperature and changes with changes in ambient temperature. When the plant body temperature is lower than the air temperature, it will absorb heat from the atmosphere or solar radiation energy to increase the body temperature; when the plant body temperature is higher than the air temperature, the body temperature will decrease due to transpiration. In other words, physiological activities and biochemical reactions in plants are carried out under certain temperature conditions. As the temperature increases, these reactions will speed up; as the temperature decreases, these reactions will slow down.

It can be seen that the body temperature of plants does not remain constant within a certain range and they are cold-blooded organisms. However, it should be noted that the body temperature of many plants is usually only 2 to 4°C higher than the surrounding temperature. If it is higher, it means that it has a fever like humans.

What causes plant fever? After careful observation, scientists found that plant diseases often damage the roots first, which affects the plant’s absorption of nutrients. Insufficient nutrients can cause fever. For example, when a small tree is sick, the ability of the tree roots to absorb water will decrease, and the small tree will not get enough water, and its body temperature will increase.

Plants will also develop a fever if they are very “thirsty” due to lack of water. During the day, plant leaf temperature is mainly regulated by transpiration. When there is sufficient water in the soil, transpiration is strong and the leaf temperature decreases; when there is insufficient water in the soil, the leaves do not get sufficient water. Under the sun, the leaves have to close their stomata due to excessive water loss, and transpiration occurs. weakens, the leaf temperature increases.

Interestingly enough, some plants can also actively generate fever. For example, in the Mediterranean region, there is a plant called Voodoo lily. This plant spends its whole life and becomes crazy hot on the day it blooms. According to scientists’ calculations, this strong respiration can consume 100 times their own volume of oxygen every hour, raising the body temperature to about 43°C. Coincidentally, the skunk cabbage of the Araceae family can also perform vigorous respiration, raising the body temperature to above 20°C. Not only can the inflorescences break through the ice smoothly, but it can also emit odor and form a warm residence to attract insects for pollination.

In addition, by observing the body temperature of plants, we can water when it is time to water and treat diseases when it is time to treat them according to the actual situation. This is undoubtedly good news for agricultural workers. In large areas of farmland that are suitable for mechanized operations, using drones carrying infrared temperature measurement equipment to walk over the fields can accurately and timely obtain the current body temperature of crops. Once body temperature becomes abnormal, people can intervene promptly with medication to reduce losses before farmland diseases and insect pests have serious consequences.

Take rice blast disease as an example. Rice blast, also known as rice fever, fire blast, knocking blast, etc., is caused by the pathogenic fungus Magnaporthe oryzae and is a major disease in rice production, with the most severe disease occurring in rice regions in Asia and Africa. In my country, rice blast is generally more severe in mountainous areas than in plains, and japonica and glutinous rice are more severe than indica. Except for early rice in South China, late rice is more severe than late rice in other rice areas. In years when rice blast is prevalent, rice production will generally be reduced by 10% to 20%. In severe cases, the production will be reduced by 40% to 50%. Some rice fields may even lose their harvest.

The time required for the rice blast pathogen to invade rice is related to the temperature. It takes 6 hours at 26°C, 8 hours at 28°C, 10 hours at 32°C, and cannot invade at 34°C. Then, with the assistance of certain technologies, measuring and controlling the temperature of rice fields can ensure crop yields by not providing opportunities for pathogens to invade.

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