Do plants respond to low frequency electromagnetic waves?

  • Thread starter Aidyan
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I'm wondering if plants are sensitive to electromagnetic (EM) waves? Of course I'm not speaking of light but in the low frequency domain, say from 0 Hz to 100 kHz? I looked up the web but couldn't find anything, only experiments with EM waves above the range of 300 Mhz. Has there been any research for lower frequencies? I'm asking just to be sure that sensitivity in this domain can be ruled out.
 

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  • #2
jim mcnamara
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Generally papers that get published assert a positive effect. The reason for this is:
finding no effect, i.e., the NULL hypothesis is accepted. BUT. It is logically impossible to prove something does not exist/happen because you have to test every single possibility. In this case every species of plant.

Because of the internet fear mongering, some kinds of papers like what you need have been published. On different topics, however:

HAARP heats the ionosphere, aspartame is poisonous, flu vaccinations cause the disease, plants "like" classical music, etc.

I think you are reasonable to conclude there is no effect. Plus detecting wavelengths like you mention requires antennas of ridiculous expense and size for an ordinary lab to incur. So the practicality of testing is remote.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extremely_low_frequency

Which also helps to explain why plants do not "see" the frequencies you are mentioning. Plus AFAIK, these frequencies are part of interstellar background "noise". So all living things have been exposed to it since day one. The atmosphere does not block incoming "noise" like that.

Pinging: @berkeman - who may be able to give more references.
 
  • #3
Yes, plants are sensitive and responsive to EM fields in that range. I wrote a book on this topic a few years ago. Plants respond to static and dynamic electric fields across a huge range of voltages and frequencies. There is quite a bit of literature available, but you need to search around for it. Most papers show positive responses on the low-end of the spectrum, say, under 50 Hz... But as a field that has had on & off research over time, there is much to be learned.

Here is some selected research:
“Effects of Electrical and Electromagnetic Fields on Plants and Related Topics”, Andrew Goldsworthy, Book Chapter (Google Books link)

Electrical stimulation and its effects on growth and ion accumulation in tomato plants“, Canadian Journal of Botany

Influence of pulsed electric field on growths of soil bacteria and pepper plant, Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering

Electrostimulation in Cell Biology by Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields, Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine

Hope this helps!
-David
 
  • #4
berkeman
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Yes, plants are sensitive and responsive to EM fields in that range. I wrote a book on this topic a few years ago. Plants respond to static and dynamic electric fields across a huge range of voltages and frequencies. There is quite a bit of literature available, but you need to search around for it. Most papers show positive responses on the low-end of the spectrum, say, under 50 Hz... But as a field that has had on & off research over time, there is much to be learned.

Here is some selected research:
“Effects of Electrical and Electromagnetic Fields on Plants and Related Topics”, Andrew Goldsworthy, Book Chapter (Google Books link)

Electrical stimulation and its effects on growth and ion accumulation in tomato plants“, Canadian Journal of Botany

Influence of pulsed electric field on growths of soil bacteria and pepper plant, Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering

Electrostimulation in Cell Biology by Low-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields, Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine

Hope this helps!
-David
At least one of those references seem questionable, IMO. But assuming these are valid peer-reviewed references, can you please summarize the mechanism that is postulated for these interactions? Thanks.

The first reference seems to refer to attaching electrodes to the plant:

>The natural endogenous current in the plant

but the others imply that they are using electric fields, not direct contact. Can you say what physical mechanism they are suggesting causes these changes? Thanks.
 
  • #5
Sure, from my understanding, the underlying mechanism is the Hodgkin-Huxley model (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodgkin–Huxley_model) that describes the generation of action potentials from changing electric field concentrations with respect to the outside of the cell wall.
 
  • #6
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Sure, from my understanding, the underlying mechanism is the Hodgkin-Huxley model (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodgkin–Huxley_model) that describes the generation of action potentials from changing electric field concentrations with respect to the outside of the cell wall.
That doesn’t make sense to me. Plants don’t generate action potentials. They do have transmembrane potentials (mostly based on H+ instead of Na+) but they don’t generate action potentials with them as far as I know. It is not immediately apparent to me how the Hodgkin-Huxley model is relevant.
 
  • #7
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The other two journals seem to be very low quality (impact factors 1.2 and 1.5 respectively). This one is a little better (impact factor 2.4). Note that it discusses electrodes directly placed in the soil, not EM waves. I don’t know if the OP is specifically interested in EM waves or any EM.

In this article the fields seemed to inhibit growth of a disease microorganism. So the positive response of the plant seemed to be due to the microorganism’s sensitivity rather than the plant. It definitely did not claim any action potentials.
 

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