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Keywords: Plant growth
How does music affect plant growth?
Washington State University professor of horticulture Linda Chalker-Scott uses the example of a book on the effect of music on plants as an instance of 'bad science' in one of her articles. In other words, the idea is not based on repeated experiments, and has not been put to the test of attempts to prove or disprove it. Many student science fair projects pursue this question. There are many other scientists discussing this, and sites on the topic, too.
The TV show Mythbusters Episode 23 has dealt with this question.
There are also two questions exploring this at the MadSci network, a scientist-staffed question site. Here is an excerpt from the MadSci network's discussion:
Experiments on the effects of sound or music on plants are very difficult because you need a lot of replication (number of plants for each treatment) and identical environments for each treatment other than the music or sound level. That is difficult to achieve even for a professional botanist much less in a home or classroom. You also need a statistical analysis to determine if the growth differences are real or just due to natural variability. No botanist has yet found a beneficial effect of music or sound on plant growth that is reliably repeatable and statistically significant.
The idea that plants grew better with certain kinds of music apparently arose in the best selling book, 'The Secret Life of Plants.' That book was filled with incorrect information. Botanists have failed to find that plants grow better or worse with a particular type of music or that music has any effect on plants. While the stories in 'The Secret Life of Plants' are intriguing, they are not based on careful scientific experiments. For accurate scientific details on plants try a college botany textbook (Stern, 1991) or popular books on plants written by scientists (Attenborough, 1995; Wilkins, 1988).
Attenborough, D. 1995. The Private Life of Plants. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Stern, K.L. 1991. Introductory Plant Biology. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown. Wilkins, M. 1988. Plantwatching: How Plants Remember, Tell Time, Form Relationships and More. New York: Facts on File.
Professor Ross Koning, who teaches Plant Physiology at Eastern Connecticut State University has addressed this question at length, too. Here is an excerpt from that site, as well:
"If plants don't have music appreciation, do they respond to sound? It is possible for a plant to respond to the vibrations accompanying sounds. A short bibliography at the bottom of this page gives you some references...but to almost 'nothing to report.' I emphasize again that while there ARE responses to sound/vibration in plants, there is NO controlled study published on the MUSICAL TASTES or MUSIC APPRECIATION by plants in reputable journals.
One plant that responds to sound-induced vibration is Mimosa pudica, also known as the 'sensitive plant.' Vibrations induce electrical signals across the leaflets of this plant, and cells at the base of the leaflets respond to these action potentials osmotically. This response results in a sharp change in the turgor pressure in these pulvinus cells, and that pressure change, in turn, results in the folding of the blade at the pulvinus. Another pulvinus at the base of the petiole may also respond if the vibration is severe enough. This kind of response is known as seismonasty.
How would this plant respond in terms of growth if its leaves were kept closed by constant vibration? If you think very long about photosynthesis in leaves as the driving force for growth, you will realize that continuous leaflet closure would inhibit rather than stimulate the growth of the plant. Indeed loud sounds (vibrations really) have been reported to negatively impact plant growth (reference below)."
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December 12 2014 11:33:49