Self-burying seeds are high on the list of “aren’t plants amazing”. Seeds of several species carry appendages that change shape when exposed to moisture and that are oriented in such a way so that their shape changes push the seed underground (don’t take our word for it – see https://youtu.be/TOJG5mF6OLs). Burrowing underground gives the seed protection from being eaten by birds and more access to moisture, promoting survival and germination. Inspired by this, Luo et al. have developed an artificial carrier for seeds that confers to them this self-burying trait. The principle is hygromorphism – movement in response to water. Wood is hygromorphic as well as nontoxic and degradable, so this is a very clever strategy. The seeds can be sown onto the top of soil, and when their wooden carriers are wetted the “tails” extend, pushing the seed underground like the process that occurs with naturally self-burying seeds. The authors point out that these principles can also be used to push microorganisms and nutrients beneath the soil surface. Simple, effective, and elegant. (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching). Nature 10.1038/s41586-022-05656-3 See also the beautifully illustrated News and Views by Mason and Yakanama https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00396-4.
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