Israeli scientists have shown that plants emit ultrasound that is inaudible to humans, reports the magazine “Cell”. When they are stressed, due to lack of water for example, they “talk” a lot.
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Research conducted at Tel Aviv University led by Prof. Lilac Hadani with prof. Yossi Yovel.
We know from previous research that vibrometers attached to plants record vibrations. But do these vibrations also become airborne sound waves, that is, sounds that can be recorded from a great distance? Our study addressed this question that researchers have been debating for many years, explained Prof. Hadance.
They heard tomatoes and tobacco
In the first phase of the study, the researchers placed the plants in a sound box in a quiet, isolated basement with no background noise. Ultrasound microphones that record sounds at frequencies from 20 to 250 kHz (the maximum frequency detected by an adult is about 16 kHz) were placed about 10 cm from each plant. The sounds emitted by tomatoes and tobacco were mainly recordedbut also wheatgrass, corn, cactus, and lavender (Lamium amplexicaule).
It looks similar to clicks or popcorn It is roughly equal to human speech in loudness, but its higher frequencies make it even louder outside the hearing range of the human ear.
“We found that plants tend to make sounds when they are under stress, and that each plant and each type of stress is associated with a specific, recognizable sound. Although they are inaudible to the human ear, the sounds made by plants can be heard by different animals, such as bats.” and mice and insects, the researchers describe.
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Dozens of sounds every hour
– Before placing the plants in the sound box, we subjected them to different treatments: some plants were not watered for five days, some were pruned, others were left untouched. Our goal was to find out whether plants make sounds and whether these sounds are affected in any way by the state of the plant. The recordings showed that the plants in our experiment made sounds with a frequency of 40-80 kilohertz. On average, non-stressed plants make less than one sound per hour, while stressed plants – whether dehydrated or damaged – make dozens of sounds every hour – the professor said. Hadance.
Recordings collected in this way were analyzed by specially developed machine learning (AI) algorithms. The algorithms learned to distinguish between different plants and different types of sounds, and eventually were able to identify the plant and determine the type and level of stress from the recordings. Moreover, the algorithms identified and categorized the sounds of the plants even when the plants were placed in the greenhouse with a lot of background noise.
In the greenhouse, the researchers observed plants that had been deprived of water for a long time and found that the amount of sound they emitted increased to a certain peak value and then decreased.
“The world is full of plant sounds”
In this study, we have resolved a very old scientific controversy: We proved that plants make sounds! Our findings indicate that the world around us is full of plant sounds, and these sounds contain information such as lack of water or injury. We suppose that in nature, the sounds made by plants are picked up by nearby organisms, such as bats, rodents, various insects, and possibly other plants.That you hear high frequencies and get the right information.
We think humans could also harness this information with the right tools, like sensors that tell farmers when plants need watering. Apparently, a perfect field of flowers can be a noisy place. We can’t hear the voices! Prof. Dr. confirmed. Hadance.
Additional research aims to elucidate, among other things, the mechanism responsible for sounds being made by plants, how moths detect and react to these sounds, and whether other plants can hear them as well.
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