"SOUND" NUTRITION: Will Music Eliminate World Hunger?
- Edith Kermit Roosevelt
Tomorrow's food and fuel may be supplied by plants on a diet of music and spray of hormones, chelated amino acids and trace minerals. That's the vision of Plant Scientist Dan Carlson, who foresees a Jack-in-the-Beanstalk world with gigantic flora feeding the multitudes and replenishing the earth's supply of life-giving oxygen.
The 42-year-old Carlson studied horticulture and plant breeding at the University of Michigan, where, using a microscope and an oscilloscope, he observed the effect of sound-induced osmosis on plant cells. Later he developed his technique for using sound and a special plant hormone to create huge plants.
One proof of the success of Carlson's method is contained in the 1979 Guinness Book of World Records, which verifies that he has grown a Purple Passion Plant of 600 feet -- the highest figure in the world for any indoor plant.
"Actually the plant grew 1,400 feet but they wouldn't come back and measure it again because they said no one could beat me," Carlson says. "The normal length of a purple passion plant is 18 inches."
Working through the company he founded, Dan Carlson Scientific Enterprises, Inc., in Blaine, Minnesota, Carlson grows super-plants for farmers and gardeners. The key to growth stimulation, he says, is a combination of gibberlic acid, a chemical derivative of the passion plant hormone known as GA-3, and a taped music on which he superimposes high-frequency sound in the neighborhood of 3-8 kilohertz. He believes that the acoustic signals somehow open up the leaf stomata to better absorb nutrients, moisture, gases and other dynamic inputs from the spray and the environment.
Others have experimented with nutrients and sound, he points out. But it is the combination that causes rapid growth and healthy plants.
"If this method were more widely used," Carlson maintains, "there would be no reason for anyone to be hungry. The technique has the potential to double or even triple fruit, vegetable, and grain production. It also shortens growing time, making farmers less dependent on favorable climates."
Carlson and the technicians from his lab have data from their work in backyard gardens and farms on a large number of vegetables and plants. This includes a 15-foot tomato plant with 836 tomatoes, a yield of 2200 pounds of edible white beans produced by a 50-acre farm as compared with 1400 for the controls and 65 to 70 roses on rosebushes versus 5 to 7 on controls.
A radio isotope study by Albion Laboratories (P.O. Box 705, 101 N. Main St., Clearfield, Utah) shows an increase of 714 percent in update of plant nutrients by cherry tomato plants treated by Carlson's foliar spray and ultra sound unit.
The speed of the plants' response surprises scientists who are replicating Carlson's results. For instance, Biochemist Lance Brian Crombie of Webster, Minnesota, has been testing Carlson's methods using various crops in the field. The summary of his test results using three treatments to corn at about two-week intervals showed that treated plants had root structures of ten inches in diameter as compared to the normal plants used as controls which showed only six-inch diameter root structures.
What is the theoretical basis for such data? Carlson has strange, even mystical premises on why the combination of sounds and nutrients work.
"I believe that birds act as scouts for nature," he says. "Their songs act as a harmonic trigger in the spring time, breaking the dormancy in the seeds just as sound tape opens up the plant's potential for growth. The same relationship comes to mind when birds migrate from their habitats in the fall of the year. Then plants go into dormancy.
"Crickets with their chirping play the same role in causing night plants to grow," he goes on to say. "And we now experience the consequences of decreasing the number of different harmonic resonators in the decline of our forests."
Dennis Stillings, editor of Archaeus, a journal which examines techniques for the detection and measurement of bioenergetic fields, has a less poetic explanation of how Carlson's sound and growth stimulants could work: "Perhaps the sound frequencies impinging on the leaf structures induce weak magnetic fields (PWMF) within the molecular structure of the plant, he suggests. "PWMF has been shown to have mutagenic effects; but whereas such fields, applied externally, may result in effects not necessarily beneficial to the plant organism, with PWMF induced by natural window frequencies, the plant may "metabolize" such fields in ways consistent with its nature."
In this framework, Dr. Eldon Bird, a medical engineer with the Naval Surface Weapons Center at Silver Springs, Md., and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IBEE), has given presentations on the electrical potential of plants to the physics department at Johns Hopkins, the Smithsonian Associates, and the U.S. Naval Academy. The Navy scientist, who has investigated Carlson's system, says "it works." He would like to see the patented treatment process further refined and tailored to particular crops or plants.
"Different plants respond to different electric signals from the environment," Bird declares. "For instance, there is a drastic difference in the electrical potential of a rubber plant and say a Bird of Paradise Plant. You can verify this by recording the electrical potentials of different plants and then listening to the differences in how they sound."
But the thrust of Carlson's efforts do not lie in electro-magnetic research or theory as much as attempting to build public interest and support for his idea by practical demonstrations in at least a dozen states. What specific techniques is he using to treat plants and crops for farmers or gardeners?
"I've developed an oscillating, bird-like sound which is produced in several units," he said. "There's a cassette tape for house plants and backyard gardens which imbeds the oscillating sound in East Indian or classical music -- sounds which most listeners find are pleasant. Then there's an oscillating sound unit, which is solar or battery-powered and is attached to the tractor as it goes through the fields. The unit covers about 35 acres.
"About 15 minutes before the spray is administered, the sound is activated," Carlson explains. "It actually can occur simultaneously and be effective, but where it is feasible, I like the extra time. The spray is administered in as fine a mist as possible through a pint sprayer for the home kit; a solo sprayer for gardens, and a tractor and sprayer for farm fields. I've also used helicopters successfully."
Three sprays about 14 days apart seem to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment on most plants, he goes on to say. Some hardy plants, such as jojoba, require more treatments. More treatments are also indicated for some trees.
For home gardens and house plants Carlson offers a kit for $30 (including postage) which includes sound tape (cassette) and enough plant nutrients for 44 home applications. The scientist and his technicians are available for commercial applications using sound generators mounted on tractors, which are available on lease. "We offer to increase plant yield from 25 to 100 percent at a cost of $50 per season," Carlson says.
Understandably, it all sounds so easy and inexpensive that many farmers simply cannot believe that it works, although an increasing number brave "the giggle factor," to try it. One such doubter was Jerry L. Zimmerman of Big Lake, Minnesota, who wrote Carlson on October 22, 1984: "We sprayed 10 acres with your product and used the sound unit facing to the rear in our 30-row sprayer. We were skeptical and hoped no one heard us."
"We dug these potatoes early and got 28-100 lb. sacks of number 1's over the controls. That day the price had dropped to $8 per hundred, so that gave us $224 per acre minus your cost of $50 per acre. A $174 net increase per acre over the control is really interesting."
"The figures on 400 acres -- at $8 per hundred would come to $69,600 net increase over controls. Better yet, if we would get the balance of our crop to mature 10 days earlier -- that's exciting! The bottom line is a 14 percent increase."
Similar testimonials continue on a frequent basis:
Meanwhile, hobbyists and experimenters are finding out that this new technology can give them the "green thumb" as well. Using Carlson's patented system, Walter Uphoff was able to grow potatoes weighing more than a pound each at his New Frontiers Center Farm in Oregon, Wisconsin. A photograph of some of these potatoes beside a rule was published in the fall-winter 1984 issue of the New Frontiers Center Newsletter that Uphoff publishes. The photos show that these potatoes measure half a foot in length.
New, more effective ways to use the sound nutrient treatment are being investigated. In June 1984 Carlson told the annual meeting of the U.S. Psychotronic Association at Ogelthorpe, in Atlanta, that when he uses sound and nutrients and soaks the seeds before planting, they become 40 percent larger than normal. In projects in Arizona and California, he reported to scientist colleagues, jojoba seeds, from a plant now being raised in desert country to produce oil, became so large they could not be planted with a corn planter as usual, but had to be inserted into the ground with a peanut planter.
Carlson has even found that when the sprouts of treated corn seedlings are broken off, instead of perishing, they send up four to five stalks. He intends to do considerably more experimentation in this area to determine how best to bring out their fullest genetic potential.
"I believe that the way we are going to meet shortfalls in food production, as now happens in many parts of the world, is by systematically challenging the seed," Carlson told this writer.
In view of the growing number of testimonials from farmers and gardeners who use his system under field conditions, what is the reaction of the Agricultural Establishment to this work?
Carlson was invited to speak about his experiments at AG Progress Days at Pennsylvania State University in 1984 and 1985. A farmer whose fields are opposite the University's Experiment Station signed up to use Carlson's plant treatment on his alfalfa, corn, sweet corn, and soybeans.
However, as far as USDA's headquarters in Washington are concerned, Carlson's work does not exist. Not long ago, USDA scuttled its organic farming program and fired its distinguished Administrator, Dr. Garth Youngberg, after vigorous opposition to such initiatives from powerful chemical interests.
And Carlson makes no secret of the fact that his system would eliminate or drastically reduce dependence on costly, high-energy inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
"When you use my system instead of chemical fertilizers," he says, "the crumb structure of the soil improves; the root mass of the plants is heavier; and the earthworms return at a rapid rate."
Carlson also maintains that the synergistic effect of the sound and nutrient combined "enables us to use less herbicides and insecticides because plants are more insect-resistant."
Meanwhile, as intriguing reports about Carlson's innovative growing methods surface in Acres, U.S.A., Landowner and other publications that deal with biological farming, he is frequently contacted by big corporations who wish to exploit the financial potential of his research. But the plant scientist is wary.
Carlson is familiar with those horror stories about inventors who lose control of their work and eke out their days in poverty and obscurity while others reap vast profits from their discoveries. He would also like to ensure that his discovery furthers positive social goals such as increasing food self-reliance and strengthening neighborhood institutions.
Yet going it alone is not easy, Carlson readily admits. The equipment he needs to monitor plant reaction is very expensive. He feels too that with appropriate large-scale support the technology which he has developed could more quickly relieve shortages of many needed resources or develop less costly alternatives to them. For example, his plant-rearing techniques might relieve the energy crisis, Carlson thinks. "Imagine growing 20-foot high corn to produce gasahol!" he exclaims. "And if this method were widely used, there'd be no reason ever to fight over food. There's no end to what can be done with it."
Meanwhile, the scientist urges all persons with a scientific bent, gardeners, farmers, as well as hobbyists, to buy a kit and contribute to his experimental work. He would like them to send their results for a plant growing contest he is sponsoring.
"This is a new energy source which will revolutionize agriculture," he says. "Why not get in on the ground floor?"
-- Black Engineer, Summer 1985