THE SOUND AND THE GLORY - Steven Jones
The ‘music’ is actually an oscillating frequency of sounds remarkably similar to that of chirping birds and crickets, but you get the idea. Just another ‘miracle,’ quick-fix magical idea to beat the odds and make a quick fortune for its promoter. Or is it?
While it sounds too good to be true, the claims made for American researcher and inventor Dan Carlson’s ‘Sonic Bloom’ are increasingly being taken seriously, and many have been rigorously tested in the field. Carlson even got in the record books, with a Purple Passion vine that, like Topsy, just growed. To an astonishing 390 metres.
Once one gets past the natural Kiwi skepticism, Carlson’s claims for Sonic Bloom, some of which seem to border on the outrageous, do make some sense. The idea of playing music to encourage plant growth is not new. There were experiments in the seventies and I remember seeing a Kiwi grower playing music to plants on television. I remember cows enjoying the radio when I milked them. I had also read somewhere that ‘music’ of the heavy rock variety could actually kill plants. Hardly surprising, it has a similar effect on me.
The Sonic Bloom concept is more appealing than the idea of music alone helping plant growth, involving as it does the use of sound and nutrient together in a balanced combination.
The sound is not the music of Chopin or the Beatles (although the Sonic Bloom cassettes supplied to home gardeners do include classical music – Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons, Spring,’ of course). But that is just there for humans who may be irritated by the ‘music’ that the plants enjoy; a carefully modulated, high-frequency, electro-magnetic wave developed from natural sounds. It is similar to the frequency of many bird calls and has been likened to the sounds of birds or crickets.
Sonic Bloom’s inventor, Dan Carlson, defines the concept in one sentence. "Sonic bloom is sound aiding in the absorption of an organic foliar nutrient."
The theory is that the sound encourages the stomata, thousands of tiny openings on the surface of leaves, to open, allowing the plant to more readily absorb nutrients. The other half of the Sonic Bloom equation is a seaweed-based, organic foliar spray containing some 55 trace minerals and amino acids, and a naturally produced giberellic acid.
The commercial possibilities of a product like Sonic Bloom are enormous. Even greater are the implications for ending world hunger, and it is this that interests Carlson.
Coming face to face with the effects of starvation as a young soldier in the Demilitarized Zone of Korea in the early sixties, Carlson decided to devote the rest of his life to an attempt to find a solution to the problem of world hunger. He spent several years at the Minnesota University Experimental College working on plant nutrition. He concluded that if plants were able to obtain 72 percent of their nutritional requirements through their leaves via the stomata, they could flourish in very poor or unsuitable soils and climates – if a way could be found to increase the uptake of nutrient into the leaves. He knew that plans translocate any excess nutrients from their leaves down to their root system, thus conditioning the soil and storing nutrients for future use.
His work led him to eventually find an electro-magnetic sound wave frequency range which stimulated the stomata into action and thus increased the update of ‘free’ nutrients available in the atmosphere, including nitrogen, and moisture in the form of dew.
"Stoma" is Greek for mouth and every plant leaf has thousands of these little mouths, or stomata. The sound frequency Carson utilized has turned out to be in the same range as some song birds, particularly during some of the spring mating and courtship rituals. This finding has led some people to suggest that the spring birdsong may be one of Nature’s signals; a trigger for trees and plants to break dormancy and begin to grow. If so, the implications of that alone are considerable for modern horticulture, which tends to discourage birds. Dan Carlson also began experimenting with various plant extracts and seaweeds and finally came up with an organize nutrient which gave the most rapid and balanced plant growth. He would find one ingredient known to increase plant growth and then increase or decrease the quantity until it produced the best possible result.
After several years he came up with a nutrient blend, which when applied with the sound frequency, produced rapid and balanced growth on over a hundred different crops, from avocados to zucchini. Dan Carlson achieved world-wide recognition for his Gynura aurantiaca or Purple Passion plant, which grew so big with Sonic Bloom that it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest indoor plant. It eventually grew to 390 metres. But the purple passion plant experiment was of novelty value only. Scientists were not interested in this success because it involved a non-edible plant of no commercial value.
So Carlson approached farmers and commercial growers to try Sonic Bloom on as many crops as possible. He managed to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to become involved in barley growing trials involving fifty varieties and different growers. They reported an average 68 percent increase in yields across the board, with several varieties treated with Sonic Bloom producing more than 100 percent yield increases.
In 1986 Acres U.S.A. magazine reported 30 percent increases on oranges and the reversal of the disease ‘Young Tree Decline.’ Papaya showed 300 percent increases. A macadamia tree considered past the age of production became virtually everbearing. Yield increases of 400 percent for cucumbers, African Violets with up to 300 blooms per plant instead of 30, and 300 percent yield increases on sweet corn were among many other successes.
The senior editor of Professional Farmers of America magazine, a definite skeptic, tested Sonic Bloom and reported 100 percent yield increases in soybean yields.
The treated soybeans were visibly larger, with an increase in pods per plant and pods numbering from 60 to 100. In Wisconsin, soybean plants produced up to 300 pods per plant; 30 to 35 is considered the norm.
Harold Aungst won the Pennsylvania State alfalfa growing contest using Sonic Bloom wit no herbicides, pesticides or expensive fertilizer. He managed 7.6 tons per acre after achieving the state average of 3.4 tons in his first cutting.
Growing bigger with Sonic Bloom apparently doesn’t mean a loss in flavor or thicker skins in the case of fruit. Growers report exceptional quality and taste with fruit, vegetables, and nuts treated with Sonic Bloom.
Like the cows which preferred the Sonic Bloom-grown alfalfa and ate the entire plant, stalk and all, humans seem to associate good taste with nutritional value.
Oranges from Sonic Bloom-treated trees have been found to contain 120 percent more vitamin C content. Soybeans were found to have 27 percent protein as against a normal 15 percent. Apples from the Circle K Orchard had 1,750 percent more zinc, 400 percent more iron, 326 percent more chromium, and 126 percent more potassium.
In Dan’s words, "These are all key ingredients to human health, longevity, and mental activity." Carlson also tells of commercial growers and home gardeners using Sonic Bloom product reporting much less pest and disease pressure. He maintains that the high complex sugar levels produced in treated plants can actually kill or intoxicate pests, whose digestive systems can’t handle the high sugars, in the form of alcohol.
These alcohols are the building blocks of amino acids. Since alcohol is basically antifreeze, this may partly explain the ability of plants to withstand frosts. And could be the reason outdoor Californian varieties of strawberries treated with Sonic Bloom are surviving the harsh winters of Wisconsin, and baffling experts who said they would never grow there.
Carlson’s intention when developing Sonic Bloom was to find a way in which food plants could produce high yields in the exhausted soils of famine areas. But no matter how good the growing environment, Sonic Bloom appears to still produce dramatic improvements in plant health and yields.
While the jovial and extroverted Carlson is having lots of fun with the astounding results of Sonic Bloom-treated crops, he hasn’t forgotten that perhaps the greatest feature of his sound and nutrient method is its ability to grow better crops in poor soils and low rainfall.
Not only do crops treated with Sonic Bloom grow in areas where crops had not grown previously, they thrived. In New Mexico, they’re making world record claims for Amaranth. Not only were the heads the biggest ever encountered, but the treated Amaranth matured 56 days earlier, on poor, adobe, sandy soil with a pH ranging from 7.7 to 7.9. In the first year, the Amaranth grew 450 gram heads. The next year, the seeds taken from those heads produced heads weighing more than a kilo.
Sonic Bloom-treated plants also apparently produce seeds which grow as well as their parents without further treatment, seeming to carry over improved genetic qualities. However, those seeds when further treated with Sonic Bloom, grow to become even better than their parents.
Carlson calls this "Genetic elasticity; the latent ability of plants to exhibit characteristics hidden in their gene pools, pulling out advantageous genes that may have been hidden for hundreds of years."
In the desert soils of Israel, Dan became part of a project involving the growing of 450 rare and endangered plants. Some seeds which can take 100 years before they germinate, did so only in the presence of Sonic Bloom.
Alan Kapuler, of Peace Seeds Oregon, reported on the effects of Sonic Bloom on the germination of 89 kinds of flowering plants. Apart from dramatically stimulating the germination of several plant types including squash, sweet corn, peppers, paulownia, and three species of rare solanums, four of the plants germinated only in the presence of Sonic Bloom.
Although the Sonic Bloom sound/nutrient system is organic, it also possesses another feature which could have far-reaching implications for this planet. The concept has been nicknamed "Sonic Doom"; or sound aiding in the absorption of herbicide. Tests have shown that by employing the sound 45 minutes prior to spraying, even hard-to-kill mature weeds can be sprayed with 50 percent less herbicide, resulting in faster, total kills. The sound is so efficient at getting the herbicide into the plant that it doesn’t matter if it rains an hour after application. While Dan Carlson does not advocate the use of herbicides, using 50 percent less will obviously result in less damage to the environment. He likes the idea of farmers halving their herbicide bills and using the savings to buy Sonic Bloom nutrient to increase their yields!
The Sonic Doom concept may also make the less effective, but environmentally safe, weed killers more efficient. Dan Carlson has refused to sell his concept to any large corporation for fear that his now world-patented growing method goes the same way as cars that run on water.
In the U.S., many farmers are on a ‘set aside’ program, where the U.S. Government pays growers not to grow anything. As a result, Dan Carlson’s achievement is probably more recognized in countries other than his own.
In Japan last year, the Bio-Research Committee, which represents 8,000 organic farmers declared Sonic Bloom to be the best thing that they had experimented with in recent years. China and Afghanistan have employed Sonic Bloom in their forestry.
In New Zealand and Australia, Sonic Bloom is in the process of being registered as organic with the main organic authorities.
In New Zealand, perhaps the greatest potential for this revolutionary technology lies in forestry -–with the promise of shorter tree rotation times and exceptional wood density qualities.
Trials are already underway on Paulownia in Australia and Pinus radiata trials will begin in New Zealand this year. In the U.S., pines have halved their maturity time with Sonic Bloom. The mind boggles as to what may happen here, in a climate already near perfect for trees.
As an organic apple and pear grower who managed to get Sonic Bloom into the country and on to the orchard midway through the season, I am delighted with results so far. They told me my young trees would suffer this season because of my decision to convert to organic and not use any chemical fertilizers. Instead, the trees are a picture of health and the first crop of apples have size, color, and exceptional taste.
Knowing also that with trees much of what you do this year determines what happens next year, I look forward to our next harvest with relish.
Our own indoor plants are literally glowing with health and for the first time we are successfully growing maidenhair ferns. One wag phoned me and declared that his place resembled "The Day of the Triffids" after only a few weeks of using Sonic Bloom.
He had to be joking. Or did he? I recall seeing, on the Sonic Bloom video, a gigantic, towering sunflower plant with a 50 cm flower, and there were those 200 kilo pumpkins…
-- Growing Today, May 1994