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Mozart: the New Steroid?

It is well known that music can have a significant effect on the human brain, whether it is to increase focus, reduce anxiety or improve memory and sleep. In fact, the effect is so significant that music therapy has been introduced to help people with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as they also positively respond to music. However, does music also affect plants? This area of study is underdeveloped compared to the neuroscience research on music and the brain. I decided to put this hypothesis to the test and therefore devised my own experiment to do so.

One of the earlier studies of the effect of music on plants was conducted in 1962 by Dr T. C. Singh, Head of Botany at Annamalia University. His research produced results that showed how his balsam plants, exposed to classical music, has shown a 20% greater growth rate and a 72% increase in biomass compared to the control group.This inspired me to carry out my month-long experiment and test out the claim of whether or not music affects the growth of plants.

I hypothesised that Classical Music would have a positive effect on the growth of plants. As I set out to perform the experiment I bought two plants of the same species (Amaryllis Belladonna) and age from the same gardener. One served as a control, and the other was exposed to classical music daily for a fixed number of hours while both of their heights were recorded over time. However, height is not a perfect measurement of growth there are other factors to be considered. Therefore, apart from measuring the percentage change in height, I noted characteristic differences in colour, overall health and number of leaves and flowers bloomed. Control variables which I maintained the same included the temperature at which they were kept, root growth, space, light exposure, the volume of water received every day and mineral ion concentrations in the soil.

After the experiment, I plotted all the height measurements for the four bulbs (each plant had two bulbs) in a graph. There was no apparent correlation between music and height grown. However, to my surprise, the other variables did support my hypothesis. The plant to which I played the piano, had more significant numbers of flowers bloomed, longer blooming period, and healthier flowers. On the tenth day, the one listening to classical music had two more flowers than the control. On top of that, some of the control plant’s flower was wilting and had curled up petals. The same was observed at the end of the month when the plants shed their flowers and grew long green leaves on the fifteenth day when both had one remaining flower. The one exposed to classical music had sturdier petals that faded from bright pink to white when moving towards the centre. On the other hand, the control plant displayed a wilting white flower. One thing to note is when purchasing the flowers; both were said to produce light pink flowers which suggested that the later flower is an anomaly that may have been produced because of environmental conditions.

To conclude, there are several possible reasons why music might affect the growth of plants. In the wild, there are natural vibrations and sound waves that influence the growth of plants (examples include rainfall, wind and birds chirping). Therefore a possible theory is that both natural and synthetic sound waves affect the plants because they accelerate mitotic division (replication of cells for growth) by vibrating the protoplasm (cell liquid) of the plants. It is critical to note that more repeats and modified experiments have to be conducted to confirm the statement. Even though my experiment didn’t yield very distinctive results, there is certainly reason to believe that the theory may be proven in the future. Who knows, maybe we're one requiem away from making our plants grow like something out of Jack and the Beanstalk?

Laura L- Y13

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