Plants are amazingly attuned to their external environments. Although the jury’s still out, some growers and researchers swear by the effects music has on plants. Read on for more….
Does playing music for plants really give them a boost? Back in 1973, when the West was just beginning its adventures in New Age thinking, Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins published The Secret Life of Plants, which first popularized the idea of plants having an emotional life. The authors cited studies that claimed that music helped plants grow, and moreover – that plants have consciousness and the ability to intelligently respond to human stimuli.
A botanist at India’s Annamalai University conducted an early study on the topic in the 60s. He exposed balsam plants to classical music and found that their growth rate increased exponentially as compared to the control group. Amazingly, he recorded a 20 percent increase in growth, and a 72 percent increase in biomass. The university’s researchers experimented with a range of Western and Indian instruments and saw widely positive results, while noting that violin music appeared to have the greatest positive impact.
Canadian engineer Eugene Canby later replicated the results when exposing his wheat fields to Bach’s violin sonata. Incredibly, his crop saw a 66 percent yield increase.
The same year the Secret Life of Plants was published, Dorothy Retallack of Colorado’s Women’s College shared her research on plants and music in her book The Sound of Music and Plants. Her experiments consisted of exposing plants to various types of music, including single notes and genres ranging from jazz to rock and classical. She reporting that plants that heard more “soothing” music, such as jazz and classical, grew towards the speakers, while more discordant rock music seemed to put them off. In the latter case, they grew away from the speakers and showed signs of distress similar to when overwatered.
Of course, plants are well attuned to their environments. During times of extreme heat, their leaves curl up to limit water loss, and attacks by hostile insects cause them to release chemicals that protect them from damage. Similarly, vibrations in the air and ground are said to give plants vital information to protect them from all manner of hazards.
As music is made up of vibrations, it’s no surprise that plants react to exposure to it. And many growers agree that different sound waves have varying effects on plants. Some speculate that cannabis plants react adversely to rock and roll because the lower frequency sound waves are associated with threats, while classical music may signal that conditions are optimal for growth. Although there isn’t much conclusive evidence on these theories, scores of plant lovers have sung the praises of exposing their plants to music, claiming that it yields healthier, more robust plants. Some even claim that the reason for this is because the frequency encourages stomata to open up allowing for greater nutrient intake while helping accommodate increased transpiration.
Despite the believers, there is still a shortage of hard evidence about music and plant growth. Many in the field have criticized earlier studies for lacking adequate controls and have called them pseudoscience.
The folks at UC Santa Barbara conclude that most of the early experiments have been improperly conducted, and suggest that perhaps the plants in these studies did better simply because the humans caring for them were more attentive. Regardless, music is the universal food for the soul, and has calmed man and beast for generations. We say, play on.
Do you play music for your plants? What have you discovered?