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Subway networks mimic plant architectures

It might seem like a tomato plant and a subway system don’t have much in common, but both, it turns out, are networks that strive to make similar tradeoffs between cost and performance. Using 3D laser scans of growing plants, Assistant Professor Saket Navlakha, Professor and HHMI Investigator Joanne Chory, first author Adam Conn and colleagues found that the same universal design principles that humans use to engineer networks like subways also guide the shapes of plant branching architectures. The work, which appears in the July 26, 2017, issue of Cell Systems, could direct strategies to increase crop yields or breed plants better adapted to climate change.

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