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The way that leaves flutter can reveal when plants need more water

Leaves vibrate at a different frequency depending on whether soy plants are under water stress

Life 7 December 2021

CX6R9A Green soy plant leaves in the cultivate field, against the sun

Leaves on a soy plant

Igor Stevanovic / Alamy

When leaves flutter in the breeze, the frequency of their vibrations may indicate whether the plant is dehydrated. This finding could lead to new ways of monitoring farm crops and help us understand how rainwater reaches the forest floor.

Think of a leaf as a ruler held by one end while the other end is flicked, says Sunghwan Jung at Cornell University in New York. A stiffer ruler will vibrate at a higher frequency than one that is more flexible.

Previous studies have found that the …