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Name: Ilana
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: VA
Country: USA
Date: Fall 2013


Question:
What is the easiest and simplest way to measure electrical signalling (or action potential) in plants? Can I simply hook a plant up to a voltmeter?



Replies:
Hi Ilana,

Thanks for the question. No, you will not get a meaningful result when you hook up a plant to a voltmeter. In order to measure an action potential in any cell, you will need to have an electrode inside the cell and another electrode outside of the cell. From my understanding, with plants, it is difficult to insert an electrode into the cell since you have to penetrate the cell wall. It may be necessary to remove the cell from the plant wall and I am unsure of how to do this. In order to give you specifics, I would have to consult the research literature.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have more questions. Thanks Jeff


I don’t think there is an easy, simple way. If you have the plant in soil or water, or even a damp stem/root, the conductivity will be carried by the water. The path of the electrical current will be the water in parallel with the plant material. I’m not an expert on this, but my general opinion is that special micro—electrodes would be needed. If you do a website search you may find an experimental setup that avoids these problems.

Vince Calder



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