15 March 2000
For immediate release
If you want to improve the growth rate of your plants, talk to them. Better still, play them 'Bat out of Hell' by Meatloaf non-stop.
Botanists at the University of Sussex studied the germination rates of ten species of plant and found there was some truth in Prince Charles' assertion that speaking to them was good for them. But the results were more spectacular if the seeds were fed a constant diet of rock music with a heavy, rhythmic beat.
The experiment, carried out by third-year biology student Ruth Davies under the supervision of Dr Peter Scott, involved measuring the germination rates of wallflowers, busy lizzies, basil, phlox, penstenons, maize, tobacco, carrots, cress and mung beans in response to silence, pop music ('Bat out of Hell' played for seven days), classical music (Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2) and speech (Kenneth Branagh reading act II of Hamlet).
Both the speech and pop music did substantially increase germination. But the raucous tones of Meatloaf encouraged wallflower seeds to sprout two days earlier than those in silent conditions. Classical music had no significant effect.
Further tests showed that the results could be due to the heat generated by a constant level of sound. The piano concerto had little impact because it contained a wide variation in sound levels.
"There's a lot of folklore about talking to plants, but very little in the way of scientific studies," said Dr Scott, who is presenting a paper on the study to the Society of Experimental Biology at the University of Exeter later this month.
"Our conclusion is that there could be something in the old wives' tale that speaking to plants helps them grow. However, you would have to shout at them continuously, and it would probably be your hot breath which has the most impact on their growth."
Notes for editors
For further information please contact Dr Peter Scott on 01273 606755 ext. 7277, email P.B.Scott@sussex.ac.uk, or Alison Field, Communications Officer, University of Sussex Tel: 01273 678888, Fax: 01273 877456, email: A.Field@sussex.ac.uk
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