Research

Rain-spread Pathogens

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Like humans, plants can spread pathogens to one another. Although scientists had observed correlations between rainfall and the spread of diseases among plants, this study is one of the first to look at the fluid dynamics of leaf and rainfall interaction. When a raindrop hits a leaf, it doesn’t simply splash as it would against an immobile surface. The impact of the drop deforms the leaf, and the plant’s rebound significantly affects the trajectory and size of the resulting droplets. Depending on factors like the leaf’s stiffness, a large drop, carrying many pathogens, may rebound and splatter onto a neighboring leaf. Other leaves tend to catapult out many smaller droplets, which may fly farther afield but carry fewer pathogens. For more, check out the press release or the original research paper. (Video credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; research credit: Bourouiba Research Group)

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