The notion of talking to plants has charmed plant lovers for generations. Skeptics have been quick to dismiss the idea whereas others believe plants really do respond to sound. Is there any truth to it?
Effect on growth
According to this study, plants respond to sound waves. It was found that sound waves with certain frequencies and intensities can have positive effects on plant development and growth. This includes seed germination, root elongation and plant height among others.
Another study suggests that sound vibrations provide a stimulus to plants. It’s interesting that continuous exposure to sound could enhance plant growth by promoting CO2 fixation. CO2 fixation is the process whereby inorganic carbon (carbon dioxide) converts to organic compounds by living organisms (e.g. photosynthesis).
Effect on pollination
Researchers have paid special attention to flowers. It was found that Beach Evening Primrose flowers respond to airborne sounds. The flowers were exposed to playback sounds of a flying bee and synthetic sound-signals at similar frequencies. They discovered that the flowers vibrated mechanically in response to these sounds, suggesting that the flower may serve as the plant’s “hearing” organ. Interestingly, the flowers produced sweeter nectar within the space of three minutes. By doing so, the plant could potentially increase its chances of cross pollination.
If it’s true that plants rely on sound vibrations to communicate, then is noise pollution harming them? Monica Gagliano of the University of Western Australia made an interesting point by commenting: “Noise could block information channels between plants, for example, when they need to warn each other of insects.”
Furthermore, research suggests that noise pollution could disrupt some ecological services. It is yet to be established how much of a problem this could be in built up areas.
For additional reading, be sure to check out our post: ‘Did You Know That Plants Can Talk?’.
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