It Turns Out Stress Makes Everyone Scream, Even Plants

Apr 6, 2023

Both humans and animals have the ability to cry out for help when in danger. Plants can too.

"We found that plants usually emit sounds when they are under stress and that each plant and each type of stress is associated with a specific sound," researchers said. Humans cannot hear the sounds, but animals like bats, mice, and insects most likely can. 

Stressors like dehydration and damage to leaves or stalks cause the plants’ high-pitched cries. They ranged from 20 to 250 kilohertz. Adult humans can only hear sounds up to 16 kilohertz. 

The bigger the danger, the more often a plant makes a sound. "Unstressed plants emitted less than one sound per hour, on average," researcher Lilach Hadany said. She added that "stressed plants … emitted dozens of sounds every hour."

To catch these sounds, Hadany’s team put ultra-sensitive microphones around the plants. They then fed the data into an artificial intelligence program. It could tell the difference between the species of plant and the types of sounds it made. 

"Our findings suggest that the world around us is full of plant sounds, and that these sounds contain information,” Hadany wrote. She said that to translate that information, we just need the “right tools." Having them, researchers noted, may allow farmers to figure out exactly when and where to water crops. That could save water, increase yields, and lower plant stress. 

Photo by Chris Abney courtesy of Unsplash. 

The concluding paragraph supports the reader’s understanding of _______. (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. different types of plants that feel stress
b. how the scientists conducted their research
c. what causes plants to cry out when stressed
d. how the research could help farmers with their crops
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