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Volume 16, Issue 2 - January 10 - January 16, 2008

Entertain Your Plants

But take my word for it, music doesn’t help

Every year I receive several requests from students interested in designing a science fair experiment to see if music improves plant growth. Back in the 1980s and early ’90s, a flurry of research projects studied the effects of sound on plant growth. As long as I have been on the review boards for plant science journals, I have never read or heard of a research project that proved music made plants grow. Scientists have never proven that classical music was better than rock and roll or acid rock. There has never been any indication that soft music is more beneficial than loud music.

The only published research on sound’s effect on plant growth features the effects of sonic booms. Exposing tomato plants to sonic booms resulted in stunted and distorted growth. Microscopic examination showed disruption of cell components. If sonic booms can shatter glass, it is no wonder they can disrupt plant cells.

There was one Kansas State University study, however, that showed greenhouses with piped-in music produce more salable plants than greenhouses left quiet. All the greenhouses studied had approximately the same number of plants. After all marketable plants had been sold, the researcher simply recorded the number of plants in each greenhouse that needed to be discarded due to poor quality. The number of plants discarded from the greenhouses that did not have music piped in was significantly greater than the number of discarded plants from the musical greenhouse.

The researchers concluded that people took better care of the plants in greenhouses that had piped-in music.

I can’t remember if the music played was rock and roll, classical or instrumental. This gives you an idea as to how long ago the experiment was conducted.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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