TALONS talk

Does magnetism affect plant growth?

Does magnetism affect plant growth?

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section!

 

(script)

Does magnetism affect plant growth?

Magnetism and magnetic fields influence a lot of things in our lives. From directing the compass to raising and lowering the tide, it shapes how we live our lives. Their effects have been known and used for thousands of years in many fields, including exploration, machinery… and farming! The effects of magnetism in the first two fields are well known, but many people doubt if magnetism has any effect on crop production.

Even before humans learned about magnetism, we noticed that certain patches of land are more productive than others, and plants planted in certain periods tend to grow better than others. This knowledge can be seen in many places, including ancient Egypt, where they timed their planting based on the moon and other astrological signs, and ancient china, which based their entire calendar on the lunar cycle.

Modern-day science is still unable to fully explain how magnetism affects plant growth, but there are many theories. The three main ones being:

magnetic forces alter the membrane structure of the seed

Magnetism purifies water

and

Magnetic fields simulate gravity, which speeds up auxin growth.

The first one is exactly as it sounds. Magnetism affects plants in ways that we still aren’t fully aware of yet, but one of the results is that with certain magnetic fields, plant membrane structures can be altered to absorb more nutrition and water so that the seed would grow faster. This is theorized to be one of the main reasons why ancient civilizations planted based on the moon. 

The second theory is also quite simple. Water is rarely pure. Most of the water that we use to water our plants or hydrate our crops have many minerals that cannot be absorbed. In some cases, exposing this water to a strong magnetic force can change these minerals into ones that the plant can absorb, so when this water is used to water the plant, it provides more useful minerals and leaves less waste.

An example of this would be purifying saltwater. As anyone who has ever watered a plant should know, you have to use fresh water to water plants. Saltwater has many poisonous minerals, which can potentially kill the plant, and the salt will accumulate on the soil surface. This can retard the plants’ ability to absorb nutrients. Magnets can solve this problem. Certain magnetic fields can weaken the bond within hydrated ions, freeing the salt ions from the hydrogen atoms. Further treatments of the water can either separate the salt and other impurities from the water or make them absorbable to the plant.

To summarize, in this situation, the magnetism is not really affecting the plant’s growth, but rather purifying the water that it needs to grow.

Speeding up the auxin growth is much more complicated.

Auxins are growth hormones that are inside of plant cells. It can cause the plant cell to grow elongated. The more auxins that are inside of a plant cell, the longer it grows.

Auxins’ growth rates are affected by a variety of factors, and directly impacts the growth of the plant, so it essentially acts as the information processor for the plant. After it receives and processes information, it acts to this information. An easy way to understand this process would be to compare these auxins to electrons. They move towards certain things, and away from others, causing “positive and negative charges”

An example of this process would be phototropism. This is when the auxins react to light by pointing towards it. This is a perfectly balanced portion of the plant stem. There are two auxins inside of each cell, so they are all equal in length, meaning that the plant grows straight up. When light hits the cells, however, the auxins will “move” away from the light. This results in one side, the one with more auxins, being “negative” and the side with fewer auxins being “positive”. The negative side has more auxins, and as I previously mentioned, more auxins mean more elongated cells. This causes the negative side to being much longer than the positive side, so the entire stem bends towards the positive side.

Now, how does all this relate to our magnetism theory? Well, auxins not only react to light, but they also react to gravity.

Auxins are affected by gravity by going lower, meaning that if the stem isn’t straight, there will be more auxins on the lower part of the stem than there are on the higher part. This means that auxins will always make the plant grow away from the ground. Taking an extreme example, if the stem is horizontal, all the auxins will gather at the bottom, making it take a 90-degree turn and point straight up. Now we can finally relate all this to magnetism. A powerful enough magnetic fields can simulate gravity. A powerful enough magnetic field can simulate gravity, and forces all the auxins to act to nothing but itself, meaning that the plants will ignore “distractions” and grow straight up. This process is known as negative geotropism.

To summarize, this process uses magnetic fields to fool the auxins in a plant to ignore all other factors and grow straight up, speeding up its growth process.

In conclusion, does magnetism affect plant growth? Both yes and no. Placing a fridge-door magnet beside a flower won’t help it grow faster, but using super-charged magnets on entire fields of crops can dramatically increase their growth speed. Magnetism can also be used in a variety of other ways to affect plant growth, including changing a seed’s membrane structure to allow it to absorb more water and minerals, purifying water to make it more useful to plants, and using magnetic fields to create a super-strong gravitational force that tricks plants into only growing straight.

“Pulling Salt Out of Seawater with Magnets.” Khalifa University, 9 Sept. 2019, www.ku.ac.ae/pulling-salt-out-of-seawater-with-magnets/.

“Magnets Help Plants Grow.” Archive – U.S. Agency for International Development, 2012-2017.usaid.gov/news-information/frontlines/feed-future/magnets-help-plants-grow.

“SVS: Ocean Tides and Magnetic Fields.” NASA, NASA, svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4541.

Massimo E. Maffei. “Magnetic Field Effects on Plant Growth, Development, and Evolution.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 18 Aug. 2014, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2014.00445/full.

“Does Planting by the Moon Work?” Garden Myths, 18 Feb. 2018, www.gardenmyths.com/planting-moon-calendars/.

“Cryptochrome and Magnetic Sensing.” Theoretical Biophysics Group, www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/cryptochrome/.

StackPath, www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/magnetism-and-plant-growth.htm.

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7 thoughts on “TALONS talk

  1. Your presentation was really informative and interesting David! I never thought magnets could actually affect plant growth!
    One thing that you did really well was explaining how auxins affect the growth of plant super clearly; The diagrams really helped me understand! I also really liked the simplistic image style that was used throughout your presentation.

    It was really hard to think of a wish. I guess its that I think the explanation could be even more clear if the audio was less muffled. This is just a minor issue though!

    The question that I have is: Do you think using magnets to affect plant growth is an efficient way to increase the prodcution of crops? Why or why not?

    Thanks!

    1. Thank you! I will try to make my audio less muffled next time. I think that this would be a really ineffective way to increase the growth speed of a single plant, but if used in larger quantities, it might be worth it’s cost. This is as the price to build one of these would be astronomical, but it can affect all the plants in the radius of several kilometers.

  2. Hey David! This presentation was very informative. I liked your use of icons and diagrams to explain your research visually. I liked that you have the things you are saying under on the notes section. It helps us follow along with what you are saying and look at the pictures.
    One question I have is what specific plant will you be growing for the experiment and how would the results differ depending on which plant?

    1. Thank you for your comment. I think I would probably use radish as my plant, because I can see both how the stem and the root has grown.

  3. Hi David!

    This was actually a really interesting topic and presentation! There was a ton of information to take in and the visuals were all really helpful in helping me understand the concepts. The entire section about the Auxins was especially interesting to me and I really enjoyed it.
    Here is my question: Which theory is the most (or least) likely to be true? Is there a specific theory that is favoured in the science community?

    -MJ

    1. Out of the three theories, the purification of water one is most likely to be true, but its also the least effective. The first one (change of membrane structure) is only a hypothesized reason for why magnetism can affect plants. The auxin theory has yet to be completely proven, and the papers written about it are all still under review, but its still the most favoured in the science community.

  4. Hi David! I enjoyed learning about how plant growth is effected by magnets, it feels somewhat similar to my project! I like how you simplified things to make it easy to understand, one wish though is maybe changing up your language, you used the same phrases a couple times.

    My question for you is: Can the type of plant affect how magnets effect the growth rate? Why or why not?

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