Shaum plays to plants

By Spencer Gisser

James Shaum ‘€™09 has designed an experiment to test the current hypotheses on the relationship between plant growth and sound.

Shaum has been performing tests on Stella, a lily that resides in front of Shaum’s speakers, for a couple years. 

“Stella only grew flowers when it was hearing southern rock,” Shaum said, “and I am going to figure out exactly why that happened.”

Shaum filled a long planter box with barley, a fast-growing plant that Shaum expects to germinate within one week of planting. A speaker at one end of the box produces a sound wave designed to be loud at some places in the box and quiet at others. Shaum plans to compare the barley’€™s growth at loud places and quiet places in the box, which could confirm or deny a possible correlation between plant growth and volume.

Plant veins are the only ways for auxin, a hormone that stops growth, to reach the growing areas in plants. Normally, plant veins allow the auxin to travel freely. Because sound waves vibrate the plant veins, many scientists currently believe that strong vibrations from loud sounds create vacuums in the veins that pull the walls of the veins shut. 

“That seemed completely irrational,” Shaum said. “The pinched veins would have many more detrimental effects on the plant. The veins are not completely flaccid, which would prevent a vacuum.”