“I like solitary pursuits, such as reading or pottering about in the garden. ”

Fortunately some of us enjoy solitary pursuits because we sure have spent some time lately secluded. Here we are again at the end of another fourteen-day self-isolation, and more lockdowns for greater Sydney. Farm life is the same anyway; life is isolated with only the necessary grocery trips into town and rare social get-togethers. Otherwise, apart from one another, only our plants in the garden have any interest in a chat. Or do they?

Fire Opal in the garden

Despite the quiet pace of rural living, I don’t talk to my roses, never have. Prince Charles advocated this years ago, convinced that having a chat with your plants helps them grow, but I’m not so sure. He is often quoted as saying.

“I just come and talk to the plants, really. Very important to talk to them; they respond.”

HRH Prince Charles

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The notion that talking to plants is beneficial has been around for a very long time dating back to 1848 when the German psychologist, physicist and natural philosopher Gustav Theodor Fechner wrote a book called “Nanna Soul-life of Plants.” He thought that plants might be able to experience emotions. Since then, many other scientists have made similar claims and spent their life researching the subject, such as the Indian scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose. From 1900 Bose dedicated himself to the physiology of plant life and reported on the influence of electromagnetic fields on plants, designing specific instruments for observation on their growth.

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Another revolutionary book came out in the 1970’s called “The Secret Life of Plants” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. It draws from remarkable research, on the psychic attributes of plants and how plants’ respond to human care. So groundbreaking was the book it reached the New York Times as a comic cartoon with the caption

“The only thing that seems to be wrong with your plant, Mrs. Jones, is that you’ve been talking to it too much.”

It is thought that perhaps the carbon dioxide we breathe on the plants if talking near them promotes growth. Although scientists say that we would have to be talking loudly for several hours to make any significant difference to carbon dioxide levels enough to influence the rate of plant photosynthesis.

“In the garden I tend to drop my thoughts here and there. To the flowers I whisper the secrets I keep and the hopes I breath”

Meyer Dodinsky

A more scientific approach than The Secret Life Of Plants is a publication by Daniel Chamovitz  in 2012 who writes about “What A Plant Knows”. His book explores just how plants experience the world and describes how plants see, smell, feel and even know. But the relevance is more about survival than a about plants enjoying a pleasant tune as quoted

A Beethoven symphony is of little consequence to a plant, but the approach of a hungry caterpillar is another story

Daniel Chamovitz

In the garden, it is evident that plants do respond to their environment specific stimuli – vital for their survival. Both NASA and the Smithsonian in the US admit that mild vibrations do increase growth in plants while stronger vibrations may have a negative effect. Dr Dominique Hes lead researcher at Horticulture Innovation Australia’s Plant Life Balance says

“The vibrations improve communication and photosynthesis, which improves growth and the ability to fight infection. You could say the plants are happy!”

We know that plants seek out nourishment, evade predators and trap prey, they move towards the warmth and light of the sun, open and close petals dependant on the time of day and rotate, as in Sunflowers turning their heads. Their innate ability to search out water sources under the soil’s surface and repel plants nearby from growing too close are well known. Our Strelitzia – Bird of Paradise has managed to deter the bush growing next to it from coming too close without even touching it.

Wind makes changes to a plant’s growth through vibration, and as sound is vibration, it stands to reason that sound may impact the health of a plant. At the end of the day, if we don’t water our plants and look after them, regardless of whether we have a chat, play music or not, they will not have a grow well.

Perhaps plants do respond positively to the sounds of our voices but what about music – Classical or Jazz music? Playing music to plants may appear odd, but research suggests that any sound, music, or voice may help boost plant growth. The vibrations from sound waves cause movement in the plant cells that stimulate the plant to produce more nutrients that affect growth. But what kind of music, Vivaldi, Led Zeppelin or Guns and Roses?

Anindita Roy Chowdhury and Anshu Gupta suggested in a study in 2015 that

“music promoted the growth and development of the plants, including germination whereas noise hindered it. Possibly, specific audible frequencies and also musical frequencies facilitate better physiological
processes like absorption of nutrients, photosynthesis, protein synthesis, etc. for the plant and this is observable in terms of increased height, higher number of leaves and overall more developed and healthier plants’.

Anindita Roy Chowdhury and Anshu Gupta (2015). Effect of Music on Plants – An Overview,
International Journal of Integrative Sciences, Innovation and Technology (IJIIT), 4(6), 30 – 34.

Interesting to consider what may be researched into the future where the possibility of using sound waves to stimulate growth on certain desirable crops, such as boosting food production and other undesirable plants such as weeds, could be inhibited. The research suggests that specific audible frequencies, including music, can benefit agriculture by increasing productivity, especially once multi-physical technologies such as electric, magnetic, optical, thermal, and nuclear are bought together and researched as one practical technology.

Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 

Title quote by Hayley Mills

Content Di Baker and Images Unsplash or as cited.

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