“Plants can only be understood when considered in connection with all that is circling, weaving, and living around them. In Spring and Autumn, when swallows produce vibrations as they flock in a body of air, causing currents with their wing beats, these and their birdsong have a powerful effect on the flowering and fruiting of plants below. Remove the winged creatures, and there will be stunting in vegetation.”Rudolph Steiner
This paper originally appeared in Grow Magazine, and was researched and written with the generous support of Authentic Genetics Seed Company by Todd McCormick; however, I alone am responsible for the content.
Music can be described technically as a purposeful arrangement of sound vibrations produced by human voices and instruments. That’s a technical description, but we all know that music is much more than that. We all know how different kinds of music affect our emotions, feelings and moods, our body’s deep physical processes, our muscles, nerves and bones, and our conscious and unconscious thinking. Just think back to a time when you were ‘carried away’ dancing to music, maybe boosted by some sweet flower.
So from our personal and collective experience we know that music affects us profoundly, and we’re all aware of the different ways music affects us. We’ve also all seen how our dogs, cats, horses, and birds respond to music, and farmers and breeders and shepherds understand music and animals too.
Well then, many people have asked, how about plants? Does music affect plants? Do plants, in their own ways, sing and dance? Well, why not? If music can make animals like us healthier and happier, why not plants? If it makes us feel like dancing, which always means feeling real good, why not plants?
Turns out – it does and we think that some of the newest research, taken alongside the brilliant work of generations of people devoted to proving that plants are sentient beings, opens the door for some very cool discoveries in Cannabis cultivation that will be made by individual growers as well as Cannabis businesses.
In this article I want to turn you on to the most recent findings in the science around plant responses to sound vibrations of all kinds, including responses to different kinds of music played in fields, grow rooms and greenhouses. It turns out that music – sound vibrations – play an intricate role in the life of plants that Cannabis growers can understand and use to produce healthier, stronger, even more beautiful, more medicinal, more delicious and more useful flower and leaf. Specifically, this body of research holds real promise that just the right sound vibrations, in the form of music as well as simple frequencies, can control and even eliminate insects, pathogens, molds and viruses in greenhouses, grow rooms and fields and can stimulate Cannabis vitality, disease resistance, vegetative growth, flower development, yield, terpene profiles, and cannabinoid concentrations, and more.
Spoiler alert – when you look at all the new research it’s pretty clear that plants love some sound vibration patterns more than others. Several well-done experiments have shown that plants like and respond to Vivaldi and Vedic chants but actively hate and even turn away from AC/DC. They literally turn their faces to the wall. AD/DC may have insisted that “Rock & Roll ain’t noise pollution”, but science says different, at least for AC/DC’s brand of rock. Sorry mates.
Not that plants don’t like a nice solid beat – they really do. But maybe those Vivaldi violins and Buddhist monks vibrating like swarms of pollinating honeybees are more natural than heavy decibels from a guitar. There’s clearly a lot to be discovered here by Cannabis growers.
For instance, there’s been no work yet on Jazz, Cuban, Afro-Pop, Japanese, Country or so many other potentially beneficial kinds of music – this is a wide-open field for Cannabis growers. What if Granddaddy Purple could be rocked into vigorous flowering with Buena Vista Social Club, or if Original Haze could blow out terpene cocktails infused with Dizzy Gillespie? What might the “Kyrie” from Misa Luba do for Durban Poison’s already starry high? Could the sound of a Tibetan Conch Shell stimulate new growth in over-hybridized Kush cultivars?
Many of the research findings I’ll be pointing out and briefly discussing have immediate practical implications for Cannabis growers in pathogen and disease management, flower yield, terpene profile, microbiome stimulation, and overall plant quality, health and vigor, and more. In some of the references you’ll even find specific details on how investigators set up their sound experiments – experiments that can be replicated in your own Cannabis grow at any scale. And some of the references aren’t technical but are just plain ‘Wow”.
That’s why I’m suggesting that Cannabis growers consider becoming part of a community experiment. Let’s take what this science has given us and do our own experimenting, everybody in their own way, and then let’s share what we find. Who says that groundbreaking science can only be done in state-of-the-art labs funded by big money? The cool thing is that almost everyone already has most of all of the equipment they would need to set up music baths of just about any kind for their plants. An iPad or phone and a couple of bluetooth speakers and you’ve got the basic setup used by most of these plant/music researchers. The sound qualities outlined in the various experimental setups in labs, greenhouses, vineyards and fields, are well within the range of simple speakers and their digital output controls and will be perfectly adequate for casual and even serious investigations. Of course if even some of this research turns out to be applicable in a sustainable way for Cannabis grows I’m sure the experimenting will get real interesting real fast.
For anyone approaching this independently, from what I see in the research this will be a matter of proceeding systematically, testing different parameters and kinds of music, and setting up your experiments so that you can reproduce any good results you get and avoid the bad ones – like if you want to test whether your plants actually hate all rock, or just AC/DC.
Speaking of that, and I’m really sorry to have to report this, but it turns out that ladybugs also dislike AC/DC and eat far fewer aphids when they’re being rocked by Black In Black.
“When exposed to music by AC/DC, who articulated the null hypothesis that “rock and roll ain’t noise pollution”, lady beetles were less effective predators, resulting in higher aphid density and reduced final plant biomass relative to control (no music) treatments.”
The Cannabis community can become a collective force for innovation in this and other areas where science points the way and then Cannabis cultivators find out how to put science to the test, develop practical applications, and share the learning.
With that, let me introduce you to a curated selection of what I believe is a solid core of research that points the way to exploring some very interesting new possibilities in natural organic Cannabis cultivation using the vibration energies of all kinds of instrumental and vocal music.
SECTION TWO – THE RESEARCH
Let’s begin this section by first acknowledging that many generations of people in many cultures around the world have known about the beneficial effects of sound and music on plants and animals. In Japan for example, sound waves have been used successfully for centuries in aging alcoholic beverages, in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, and in the breeding of animals. In Korea and China “Green Music” is being used today in rice and barley fields, though still with variable results. In India and Iran scientists and growers have understood the sentient lives of the higher plants for centuries if not millenia.
Interestingly enough although Cannabis is completely integrated into the traditional biomedical systems of India there doesn’t seem to have been much experimenting with sound vibrations and Cannabis even in the golden age of plant communications experimentation in India 1850-1900, well before the 20th Century’s maniacal anti-drug crusades that have effectively prevented research worldwide for the last 100 years. Interested readers may want to explore the plant research of Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Article #1: “Plant Health and Sound Vibration: Analyzing Implications of the Microbiome in Grape Wine Leaves”
This is the research paper and bibliography that first got me interested in whether music can help Cannabis grow stronger and healthier with bigger, richer flowers. I highly recommend reading this paper. The data are very clear, showing that the music played in these South African vineyards measurably decreased pathogens, insects and molds and measurably increased grape yield and quality and enhanced the ‘terroir’ of the wine. My mind connected immediately – “South African vineyards! Durban Poison! Terroir! Yes!”
So friends, if what happens to grapevines and grapes in the vineyard happens in an equivalent way for Cannabis plants and their flowers, that would be pretty good news. See below for a graphic look at what happens. The results in this paper were obtained with “classical, mainly Baroque music”, which leaves the field wide open for Cannabis growers to try different musical genres.
I know this graphic may be a little hard to read but please go to the original paper if you can’t make out what it is showing clearly enough. Bottom line – music treatment provides strong mold and pathogen control, stimulation of beneficial organisms, and expressions of terroir in vinyards- which I believe will translate to stronger Cannabinoid and Terpene expression in Cannabis.
Here are the directions for interpreting the data.
“Shared and specific microbial taxa in sound vibration (SV)-exposed and control grapevine leaves. Only bacterial and fungal taxa (at species level) detected in at least 75% of the sample replicates were included in the network analysis.”
“Node size corresponds to absolute abundance in the dataset and node outlines indicate bacteria (black) and fungi (grey) as indicated in the legend on the lower left.“
“Pie charts of shared nodes indicate observed abundance within the two groups, where color of shared nodes is related to “Control” leaves (yellow) and “Music” leaves (blue).”
“Green symbols attached to nodes point to the microbiota’s potential for supporting host resilience (asterisks) and/or contributing to the terroir (triangle).“
Article #2: “Advances in Effects of Sound Waves on Plants”
This review from 2014 is full of still-relevant, very specific information that will be useful for anyone in 2022 who wants to set up and run their own trials. Here are some selected excerpts (my emphasis added):
Sound waves technology was applied at different (1) frequencies, (2) sound pressure levels (SPLs), (3) exposure periods, and (4) distances from the source of sound to influence plant growth.
Experiments were conducted in the open field and under greenhouse growing conditions with different levels of audible sound frequencies and sound pressure levels.
Sound waves at 1 kHz and 100 dB for 1 hour at a distance of 0.20 meters: (1) significantly promoted the division and cell wall fluidity of callus cells and also (2) significantly enhanced the activity of protective enzymes and endogenous hormones.
Sound waves stimulation increased the plant plasma-membrane H+-ATPase activity, the contents of soluble sugar, soluble protein, and amylase activity of callus.
Sound waves increased the content of RNA and the level of transcription. Stress-induced genes could switch on under sound stimulation.
Sound waves at 0.1–1 kHz and SPL of (70±5) dB for 3 hours from plant acoustic frequency technology (PAFT) generator within a distance ranged from 30 to 60 meters every other day significantly increased the yield of sweet pepper, cucumber and tomato by 30.05, 37.1 and 13.2%, respectively.
Furthermore, the yield of lettuce, spinach, cotton, rice, and wheat were increased by 19.6, 22.7, 11.4, 5.7, and 17.0%, respectively.
Sound waves may also strengthen plant immune systems. It has been proved that spider mite, aphids, gray mold, late blight and virus disease of tomatoes in the greenhouses decreased by 6.0, 8.0, 9.0, 11.0, and 8.0%, respectively, and the sheath blight of rice was reduced by 50%
Article #3: “Beyond Chemical Triggers: Evidence for Sound-Evoked Physiological Reactions in Plants”
This well-written 2018 paper is full of little gems that may be worth exploring, like this one:
“Recent studies showed that, in Arabidopsis, treatment with 500 Hz sound induces the production of the growth-related hormones indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) and gibberellin (GA) 3 and the defense-related hormones salicylic acid (SA) and jasmonic acid (JA).”
Note: The “Arabidopsis” you see referred to here you’ll also see everywhere in the “Sound & Plants” research literature. This refers to Arabidopsis thaliana, the white rat of plant pathogen researchers.
Article #4:“Sound Waves Promote Arabidopsis thaliana Root Growth by Regulating Root Phytohormone Content”
Here is another study that reinforces the positive impact of ‘priming’ seeds with specific sound vibrations and gives us specific parameters to work with.
“The results of the study showed that Arabidopsis seeds exposed to sound waves (100 and 100 + 9k Hz) for 15 h per day for 3 day had significantly longer root growth than that in the control group.”
Article #5: “Impact of audible sound in form of classical music on the grapewine leaf-associated microbiota“
What does this research suggest to you about the potential for music influencing Cannabis flower cannabinoids, terpenes etc.
“Within the present study we investigated grapevine leaf-associated microbiota from a vineyard that was perpetually exposed to baroque music, and compared them to a non-exposed control group by analyzing 16S rRNA gene and ITS fragment amplicon libraries. We observed a shift within the core microbiome of music-exposed leaves; for several species a host-beneficial effect has been well described in existing literature. Moreover, abundances of taxa identified as potential producers of volatile organic compounds that contribute to sensory characteristics of wines, were either increased or even unique within the core music-exposed phyllosphere population.”
Article #6:“Emperical study for effect of music on plant growth”
This isn’t a full study but the fragment here is intriguing. Vedic Mantras for the Cannabis grow? Why not?
“Especially Secret of the Power is hidden in Indian vedic mantras. We have presented the experimental setup to study the effect of music on plant growth. It was notice that plant which is exposed to vedic chanting has a tremendous effect on growth, leaf size and inter-node. This experiment clearly indicate the vedic chanting (Mantras) having higher frequency which affect the ability of plants to perform their functions, resulting in greater growth …”
Article #7: “Ethylene Induced by Sound Stimulation Enhances Anthocyanin Accumulation in Grape Berry Skin through Direct Upregulation of UDP-Glucose: Flavonoid 3-O-Glucosyltransferase.“
This paper shows how specific sound exposures helped grapevines and grapes adjust to high temperatures that otherwise would inhibit molecular processes affecting fruit quality and coloration. And we all want nice fruit quality and coloration – right?
Article #8: Sound Vibration-Triggered Epigenetic Modulation Induces Plant Root Immunity Against Ralstonia solanacearum
R. solanacearum is a dangerous Xanthomonas class Cannabis pathogen all of which are very difficult to control or eradicate. The Arabidopsis thaliana used in this study is a model organism used by plant scientists to determine specific defense mechanisms of plant-pathogen resistance. Since a brief exposure to SV at 10 kHz gives A. thaliana immunity to the pathogen, or more precisely the SV stimulates A. thaliana’s own natural defenses, could SV also promote immunity against this and perhaps other Xanthomonas pathogens in Cannabis?
“Taken together, SV triggers epigenetic modification of genes involved in secondary metabolite biosynthesis, defense hormone signaling, and pre-formed defense in A. thaliana, leading to the activation of plant immunity against R. solanacearum.
Article #9: Machine learning approach for automatic recognition of tomato-pollinating bees based on their buzzing-sounds
I had to include this reference not only because it’s brilliant science but because it introduced me to two of the most delightful terms I’ve come across recently – floral sonication and buzz-pollination.
“To extract pollen efficiently, some visiting bees grasp the anthers and, quickly contracting their flight muscles, produce vibrations and an audible sound. The vibrations are transferred to the anthers, shaking and stimulating the pollen inside them to leave by the pores, a phenomenon known as floral sonication or buzz-pollination.
Article #10: A tuning point in plant acoustics investigation.
“Some phenomena are well known: roots perceive the sound of flowing water and display a sound-mediated growth toward the water source, while the buzz pollination process allows plants to minimize the pollen lost and maximize which is collected by true pollinators.
But plants are far more perceptive and responsive to their environment than we generally consider them to be, and they are communicating far more information than we realize if we only took all their signals (VOCs, sound, exudates, etc.) into a greater picture.
Could Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) be involved in mediating more responses than we imagine? VOC synthesis and release is known to be elicited also by electrical signals caused by mechanical stimuli, touching and wounding being among these, serving as info-chemicals in the communication between plants (“eavesdropping”), and within the organs of the same plant, in order for it to get synchronized with its surroundings.”
Article #11: “Plants emit remotely detectable ultrasounds that can reveal plant stress“
I am quoting at a little length from this paper because it is so remarkable to see measurable verifiable evidence that plants not only receive and respond to sound but also purposefully create audible sound. The implications for greenhouse and field-grown Cannabis are quite interesting aren’t they?
Plants communicate with their environment in many ways, using colors and shapes and secreting chemicals. Yet, the possibility that plants emit airborne sounds that reveal their condition has not been investigated.
Here, we develop a novel method for remotely detecting plant sound emission. We use it to demonstrate, to our knowledge for the first time, that plants emit sounds that can be recorded from a distance. We recorded ~65 dBSPL ultrasonic sounds at 10 cm distance from tomato and tobacco plants, suggesting that these sounds could be detected by many animals from up to several meters.
We further train machine learning algorithms to identify the physiological condition of 10 tomato and tobacco plants based solely on the emitted sounds. We successfully classified the plant’s condition – dry, cut, or intact – based on its emitted sounds. Our results suggest that animals, and possibly even other plants, could use sounds emitted by plants to gain information about the plant’s condition
Our results demonstrate for the first time that plants emit remotely-detectable airborne sounds and do so particularly under stress (Fig. 2a).
The plant emissions that we report, in the ultrasonic range of ~20-100 kHz, could be detected from a distance of 3-5m (see Methods), by many mammals and insects (when taking their hearing sensitivity into account, e.g., mice and moth).
Moreover, we succeeded in differentiating between sounds emitted in two different stress conditions – dry and cut – with precision of ~70% using supervised machine learning methods.
These findings can alter the way we think about the Plant Kingdom, which has been considered to be almost silent until now.
Article #12: Out of Sight but Not out of Mind: Alternative Means of Communication in Plants
Article #13: Green symphonies: a call for studies on acoustic communication in plants
Article #14; Flowers respond to pollinator sound within minutes by increasing nectar sugar concentration
We show that Oenothera drummondii flowers, exposed to playback sound of a flying bee or to synthetic sound-signals at similar frequencies, produce sweeter nectar within 3 minutes, potentially increasing the chances of cross pollination. We found that the flowers vibrated mechanically in response to these sounds, suggesting a plausible mechanism where the flower serves as an auditory sensory organ. Both the vibration and the nectar response were frequency-specific: the flowers responded and vibrated to pollinator sounds, but not to higher frequency sound. Our results document for the first time that plants can rapidly respond to pollinator sounds in an ecologically relevant way. Potential implications include plant resource allocation, the evolution of flower shape, and the evolution of pollinators sound. Finally, our results suggest that plants may be affected by other sounds as well, including anthropogenic ones.
Article #15: Positive regulatory role of sound vibration treatment in Arabidopsis thaliana against Botrytis cinerea infection
This research shows sonic vibration control of bud rot. Not in Cannabis – not yet. And the treatment seems a little tedious. Still …
Arabidopsis plants (fourteen-day-old) were treated with sound vibration (1000 Hz, 100 dB) for daily 3 hours up to 10 days in a soundproof chamber. The control plants were kept in a similar sound-proof chamber without SV exposure (daily 3 h) up to 10 days. After that, control and SV-treated plants were challenged with Botrytis cinerea spores. The result showed that SV pre-treatment increases the disease resistance of Arabidopsis against B. cinerea.
Article #16: How do we know that plants listen: Advancements and limitations of transcriptomic profiling for the identification of sound-specific biomarkers in tomato
Sound vibration has been recently identified as an important physical trigger to elicit plant responses. Naturally occurring sound waves modulate diverse aspects of plant physiology, such as root growth, stress responses, and seed germination. However, it has been debated whether plants perceive artificially generated sound vibration and exhibit similar phenotypic changes to those exhibited after perception of natural sound waves. Recently, analysis of RNA-Seq and microRNA-Seq using tomato fruits treated with optimized sound waves to attenuate fruit ripening revealed sound-specific microRNAs, which could be used as sound-specific biomarkers in tomato. These data provide solid molecular evidence of sound perception in plants.
Article #17: Beyond Chemical Triggers: Evidence for Sound-Evoked Physiological Reactions in Plants
Recent evidence supports the notion that naturally occurring and artificially generated sound waves contribute to plant robustness. New information is emerging about the responses of plants to sound and the associated downstream signaling pathways. Here, beyond chemical triggers which can improve plant health by enhancing plant growth and resistance, we provide an overview of the latest findings, limitations, and potential applications of sound wave treatment as a physical trigger to modulate physiological traits and to confer an adaptive advantage in plants. We believe that sound wave treatment is a new trigger to help protect plants against unfavorable conditions and to maintain plant fitness.
Article #18: Eavesdropping on insects hidden in soil and interior structures of plants
Accelerometer, electret microphone, and piezoelectric disk acoustic systems were evaluated for their potential to detect hidden insect infestations in soil and interior structures of plants. Insect sounds could be distinguished from background noises by differences in frequency and temporal patterns, but insects of similarly sized species could not be distinguished easily from each other.
Tests were done to compare acoustically predicted infestations with the contents of soil samples taken at recording sites. Under laboratory or ideal field conditions, active insects within approximately 30 cm were identified with nearly 100% reliability. In field tests under adverse conditions, the reliability decreased to approximately 75%.
These results indicate that acoustic systems with vibration sensors have considerable potential as activity monitors in the laboratory and as field tools for rapid, nondestructive scouting and mapping of soil insect populations.
END OF REFERENCE SECTION
Vineyard masters who are experimenting with music for their vines and grapes seem to be concentrated in Italy and France, and they’ve found that their vineyards respond best to Baroque music’s complex sound vibrations. So even though I’m pretty sure that none of these growers have checked out Cuban, Jazz or West African music, here are some selections of Baroque music preferences that incorporate many of the vibratory frequencies that plants seem to love.