Talking trees and prattling plants
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CTA. 1994. Talking trees and prattling plants. Spore 49. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49314
It used to be said that the gardeners who got the best results from their plants did so by talking to them. Now it seems that the plants can 'talk' back and tell you their needs! When plants draw up water, their cells are like millions of tiny...
It used to be said that the gardeners who got the best results from their plants did so by talking to them. Now it seems that the plants can 'talk' back and tell you their needs! When plants draw up water, their cells are like millions of tiny straws and the 'sucking action is so strong that air bubbles get trapped in the water. These emit ultrasonic pops and crackles which can be detected by special microphones. The more drought-stressed a plant becomes, the stronger the sucking action and the louder the noises emitted. Scientists are speculating that it should be possible to use ultrasound to measure the drought resistance of new varieties. These high frequency noises may give botanists other information such as when a tree is ready to come into leaf. It would seem that the noisier the tree the later it breaks into leaf. This is because of the variation in size of the water 'pipelines' within each species of tree. The larger the bore of pipe the more air gets trapped, and this acts like an air block in a water pipe causing the tree to be slower to come into leaf. Scientists have even discovered that dead wood continues to emit noises and this too can be turned to an advantage. American researchers have made a kiln that is computerised to pick up the ultra-sonic noises given off by wood as it dries, to recognize the danger sounds of wood drying too quickly and turn down the heat. This can represent huge savings in warped and useless wood ruined from drying at temperatures that were too high or too rapid. As futuristic or as far-fetched as 'talking plants' may sound, scientists are excited by the diverse possibilities that tapping into these ultrasonic sounds could open up.