Biologists from the John Innes Centre in England discovered that plants have a biological process which divides their amount of stored energy by the length of the night. This solves the problem of how to portion out energy reserves during the night so that the plant can keep growing, yet not risk burning off all its stored energy.

While the sun shines, plants perform photosynthesis. In this process, the plants convert sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into stored energy in the form of long chains of sugar, called starch. At night, the plants burn this stored starch to fuel continued growth.

“The calculations are precise so that plants prevent starvation but also make the most efficient use of their food,” study co- author Alison Smith said in press release. “If the starch store is used too fast, plants will starve and stop growing during the night. If the store is used too slowly, some of it will be wasted.”