Detect thy neighbor: Identity recognition at the root level in plants

B.J.W. Chen, H.J. During, N.P.R. Anten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Some plant species increase root allocation at the expense of reproduction in the presence of non-self and non-kin neighbors, indicating the capacity of neighbor-identityrecognition at the rootlevel. Yet in spite of the potential consequences of rootidentityrecognition for the relationship between plant interactions and community structure and functioning, this phenomenon still remains poorly understood. We first critically assess the evidence for the existence of self/non-self and kin recognition at the rootlevel in plants. While rootidentityrecognition most likely exists to some degree, there remain valid points of criticism regarding experiments that have documented this, particularly concerning the effects of pot volume in self/non-self recognition experiments and the roles of size inequality and asymmetric competition in kin recognition studies. Subsequently we review and propose some plausible physiological mechanisms that may underlie these responses. Finally we briefly discuss the relation between under- and aboveground interactions and the potential consequences of rootidentityrecognition for agriculture, and conclude with raising several questions for future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-167
JournalPlant Science
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • self/non-self discrimination
  • scaling phloem transport
  • kin recognition
  • competitive ability
  • impatiens-capensis
  • sibling competition
  • electrical signals
  • sib-competition
  • barley plants
  • desert shrubs


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