Harnett County,
North Carolina

Cooperative Extension 

Do plants respond to music?

ASK THE HORT AGENT

Question Do plants respond to music?

Answer This topic is certainly a favorite among science fair experiments. Two factors make this experiment very popular. First, students can use types of music they like and dislike. There are many “types” or categories of music - rock, rap, soul, jazz, classical, spiritual, country, etc… This variety provides many different combinations to compare without repeating last year’s prize winning experiment.

The second reason this experiment is so popular involves the results. In 1973 Dorothy Retallack wrote a book called “The Sound of Music and Plants.” This book was based on her research involving plant growth and music. Dorothy was the first researcher to attempt to identify a connection between music and plant growth. While her results sound conclusive, they are far from absolute. Music research generally produces results that are difficult to repeat. This effect is bad when conducting university research, but great when conducting a science fair project. Grade school students get excited when their results are different from a predicted outcome. The primary objective of most science fairs is to help students learn the research (or experimental) process. That objective is easier if students can use materials, like music, that interest them.

In nature, plants respond to movement created by wind and rain. They respond by strengthening themselves to withstand these forces of nature. Plants grown in the absence of wind (experimental conditions) will be weak and spindly.

Wind is a wave. Sound is a wave. These waves are simply formed by areas of higher and lower pressure in the atmosphere through which they travel. So far, the extremely small fluctuations in air pressure of a sound wave have not been proven to effect plant growth. In order for a plant to respond to sound (as a growth stimulus), it would have to exist in a place that had lots of noise and no wind. Under these conditions, a plant could hypothetically adapt and be all ears.

Even though it is unlikely plants respond to music, gardeners do. Therefore plants (and gardeners) exposed to music will probably grow better. Plants exposed to music will probably receive better care than those which are not. A happy whistling gardener will work harder, unless they have to stop to play an air guitar.

For info on basic plant requirements, excluding music, visit http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/requirements.html If you do not have internet access, then call me at 910-893-7533 or email me at gpierce@harnett.org

Below are a few songs you can use to do conduct your own music/plant study. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL-uL2M3xvM (contains stringed instruments thought to promote plant growth)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNlmn7vbXBQ (contains Curious George thought to interest children)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eUSsbd9924&feature=related (contains Rock n Roll maybe loud and/or aggrivating to plants)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NH_is7VuCI&feature=related (contains garden testimonial)

Gary L. Pierce

Horticulture Extension Agent

Harnett County

 
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