In 1960, George E. Smith, a farmer and botanist living near Normal, Illinois, heard from the farm editor of his local paper that experiments conducted in India showed rice plants exposed to classical music growing faster and higher. Smith immediately started his own music trials on corn and soybeans. In the greenhouse, plants exposed to Gershwin 24 hours a day grew faster and weighed more. In the spring, Smith tried it outside, again with Gershwin, as well as sustained single notes. At harvest time, the plots exposed to music yielded at least 20 bushels an acre more than those grown in nature’s usual ambience. Smith also found that plants did even better exposed to a single high or low note—thus suggesting that sound waves were warming the soil and stimulating growth. Plants too close to the speakers experienced some foliage damage, but there was a difference in yields of 30 bushels an acre between the “silent” plots and the plots exposed to a single low note.
Smith was convinced that sound waves had an effect on plant growth, but refused to voice any definitive conclusions, and, at the end of the article, was planning to experiment further.
One wonders what came of it all. I don’t hear Gershwin or any other sustained sound coming from our local corn fields; I think it’s safe to say that the practice never made it into the mainstream. Now that corn production is bigger than ever, I wonder if this or other eccentric means of increasing volume will be revived. I won’t mind much if they stick to Gershwin. Though for the single low note option, the minimalists would be the way to go: Arvo Part or LaMonte Young, maybe. Now, that would be interesting.
Couldn’t resist throwing in this handy illustrated garden tip from the same issue of PM: avoid edging problems by lining your garden beds with bricks. Cool shirt!: