Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 118, Issue 6, pp 371–389 | Cite as

Magnetoreception in plants

  • Paul GallandEmail author
  • Alexander Pazur
Current Topics in Plant Research


This article reviews phenomena of magnetoreception in plants and provides a survey of the relevant literature over the past 80 years. Plants react in a multitude of ways to geomagnetic fields—strong continuous fields as well as alternating magnetic fields. In the past, physiological investigations were pursued in a somewhat unsystematic manner and no biological advantage of any magnetoresponse is immediately obvious. As a result, most studies remain largely on a phenomenological level and are in general characterised by a lack of mechanistic insight, despite the fact that physics provides several theories that serve as paradigms for magnetoreception. Beside ferrimagnetism, which is well proved for bacterial magnetotaxis and for some cases of animal navigation, two further mechanisms for magnetoreception are currently receiving major attention: (1) the “radical-pair mechanism” consisting of the modulation of singlet–triplet interconversion rates of a radical pair by weak magnetic fields, and (2) the “ion cyclotron resonance” mechanism. The latter mechanism centres around the fact that ions should circulate in a plane perpendicular to an external magnetic field with their Lamor frequencies, which can interfere with an alternating electromagnetic field. Both mechanisms provide a theoretical framework for future model-guided investigations in the realm of plant magnetoreception.


Geomagnetic field Magnetoreception Magnetotaxis Magnetite Magnetosomes Ion cyclotron-resonance mechanism Radical-pair mechanism 



Magnetic flux density


Alternating magnetic field (generated by alternating current)


Static magnetic field (generated by directed current)


Extremely low frequency (i.e. magnetic field)


Electromagnetic field


Intersystem crossing


Ion-cyclotron resonance


Ion-parametric resonance


Low frequency (i.e. magnetic field)


Quantum electrodynamics


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© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of BiologyPhilipps-Universität MarburgMarburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biology ILudwig Maximilians Universität MünchenMunichGermany

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