August 30, 2007

Eine Kleine Sproutmusick?

Duh, Duh, Duh, Daaaahlia!

South Korean scientists, who played classical pieces including Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata in rice fields, say they have identified plant genes that can "hear".

Plants are known to respond to light, wind, and soil nutrients. Some gardeners believe flowers can be revitalised by music.

The researchers, whose work is highlighted in this week's New Scientist, say their discovery could in future enable farmers to switch specific plant genes on and off - potentially making crops flower at certain times or grow more quickly.

Mi-Jeong Jeong of the National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology in Suwon, South Korea, and colleagues began their research by playing 14 different classical pieces to rice plants.

They monitored gene expression in the plants - the process by which their DNA code is translated into instructions for biological processes such as growth.

They found that sounds at specific frequencies - 125Hz and 250Hz - made genes rbcS and Ald more active, whereas sound waves at 50HZ made their less active.

As both are known to respond to light, they repeated the experiments in the dark and concluded the sound was causing the effect.

The researchers speculated that the production of chemicals that lead to the genetic changes they observed could be harnessed to activate other specific genes that could trigger the flowering of crops.

Other scientists were more sceptical. Martin Parry, of the Institute for Arable Crops Research-Rothamsted in Harpenden, said factors such as wind might drown out the effects of the sound.

Philip Wigge of the John Innes Centre in Norwich said he did not trust the results of the study, saying too few samples had been analysed.

I don't buy it. As it happens, I whistle all the time when I'm working in the garden (very often the second movement from Beethoven's Symphony No. 2) and I haven't seen it make the slightest bit of difference.

But perhaps the rants and tirades against the deer, the rabbits and the woodchucks that I mix in between my musickal selections fwightens the widdle flowers into shrinking back again. Maybe those South Korean scientists could start yelling at the rice in order to see if there's anything to this notion.

Posted by Robert at August 30, 2007 01:18 PM | TrackBack

the Mythbusters on Dicsovery Channel did a show about the effects of music on plants they grew on a roof. Pretty cool experiment.

Posted by: Big Mac w/ an Egg at August 30, 2007 03:35 PM

Did they reach a conclusion?

Posted by: Robbo the LB at August 30, 2007 03:47 PM