A young agronomist from Varna participates in the world’s third scientific study on how plants communicate. Kristiyana Opreva is 24 years old, a master’s student at the University of Agriculture – Plovdiv.
– Kristiyana, tell us more about the research project on plant communication in which you are involved?
– Together with prof. Emilia Mihailova and prof. Teodora Pashova from the University of Agriculture in Plovdiv, we invented a method to understand how plants communicate. We chose four types of plants – from ornamental horticulture, fruit growing and viticulture. We compared their frequencies, i.e. what sounds each of these plants makes. The plants used from ornamental horticulture were muscadine and epicea. We found that two plants of the same species can communicate with each other thanks to the frequencies they emit. The frequencies are over 20 kilohertz, which cannot be heard with normal human hearing. There are hypotheses that humans exist that pick them up, but this is still a subject of research. In the case of fruit and vine plants, we have found that when you cut a twig off a tree or a vine stick, sounds are detected that literally mean a cry for help because they are separated from the mother plant. Especially from fruit trees we used an apple tree that made very frequent sounds at a certain interval. Thanks to this, we found that in a certain range of frequencies we could “hear” the plants. In order to find out exactly what they were saying, we did further research – we broke sticks, buds, cut twigs, tore leaves. We found that through a physical method – hurting, and a sonic method – hearing, plants do communicate with us and each other.
– Why this interest in this type of research. You had mentioned to me a while ago that you were getting into something like this, but it sounded like science fiction…
– With all the material we’ve read on the subject over the last 9 months, we’ve found that only two places in the world have done similar research. The idea was thrown at me by a friend who had watched people recording plants on the internet. I wondered if biophysics might work for me. The methods we were using – the sounds we were finding and the physical method – breaking, tearing, etc., helped us realize that we should look for biophysics in plants. If we stand, for example, in front of a tree, it certainly carries energy, it carries a sound frequency, it literally carries a light that would be useful to us if we knew what it was saying at that moment. Our study is the third of its kind in the world. The first two were in Tel Aviv, Israel, and in the Netherlands.
– Listening to you, I am reminded of a story of my mother-in-law, how she threatened a plant that she would throw it away if it didn’t bloom, and it blossomed. Is it possible that plants understand us and we don’t understand them?
– If we use the methods of biophysics again, the plants may indeed hear us. But they do so at frequencies that we don’t imagine we produce by speaking, i.e. imagine a beep, a whistle, that we use to say something to the plants. I have a Golden Superior apple tree in my yard, and while we were building the house, all sorts of things gnawed at it… I had told it one day that if it didn’t stop contorting like a mannequin, it would eat the axe and plant a new one. That same year she bore so many apples that she broke her branches. She is now in her seventh year alive. When old people say plants understand us, they’re probably right. Plants are very useful organisms and we should not kill them. My advice is, take a plant home, speak to it with love, love it like it’s your child and it will thank you. It will freshen up the air in your home, give you beautiful colours to enjoy every day.
– Besides purely emotional and purely human, how would knowing that plants understand us change us?
– If we understand plants, we will know when one is sick to help it. In terms of farmers and agronomy, as a science, it would actually help in pest control. If we understand plants, one day we will understand all other living organisms. We can live in symbiosis with the plants, the insects, the animals, be one, we can be good to them and they to us.
– What will be your next research in this direction and what results do you aim to achieve?
– Although it’s a scientific secret, I’ll give away a little bit. My goal is to research weeds. Take cuckoo yarn, for example, which can literally dry out tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers… If I know what it’s saying, I can influence it so that it moves to another location and infects another weed species and not the crop plant.