This is what it looks like when rain hits a plant in slow-motion:
A team from MIT and the University of Liege in Belgium captured what it looks like when plant disease spreads, and shared these farmers.
While historical weather records suggest that rainstorms scatter disease throughout a field of crops, how this happens has not been explored before this study, the authors say. For example, fungus known as rust can spread quickly following rainstorms, eating away at plants' leaves and sometimes devastating crop harvests.
To investigate how falling rain could bounce harmful fungus off of one plant and onto another, the researchers first dotted leaves with a red liquid to mimic the fungus (wet from the rain), so they could easily visualize where it went. Then, they recreated rain by running water through a container with tiny holes, holding it high enough to mimic the speed of actual rainfall.
The researchers ran experiments with dozens of types of plants, from banana trees to bamboo and published their results in a recent paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The findings of this type of study could someday give clues about how to plant crops to minimize disease spread, such as how much space should be between each plant or how different crops could alternated.