Lush cosmetics consultant talks about the potentials in agriculture of Music of the Plants

Terrier

Do not miss this article where we talk with Tarek Amin, agriculture specialist for Lush cosmetics trained in agro-ecology and rural development. He shares with us his experience using Bamboo in agriculture.

 

Terrier:

Hi Tarek and thank you very much for staying with us. What are you doing in Lush Cosmetics?

Tarek:

My main focus at Lush is phasing out the use of highly hazardous pesticides from Lush’s supply chain. It is a progressive process that requires sustained collaboration with the suppliers and the growers.

In fact, the reason I got the Bamboo was to answer this question: do sick or vulnerable plants sing differently than healthy plants? If so, in what way?

 

Terrier:

Could you tell us some experiences with Music of the Plants?

Tarek:

I have “accidentally” grown papaya plants from seeds obtained from a fruit i had bought. I tried to do some thinning by removing the weaker plants. When i used the Bamboo device on the bigger plant that I didn’t cut it produced a sound like screaming. It sounded like fear, complaint and shock and after this brief sound it remained silent.

Interestingly after our chat I was meditating in the evening and left the Bamboo connected to the same plant. In the beginning it was reluctant to produce a sound but then started to produce more consistent and mellow notes.

 

Terrier:

Are plants that are reproduced for business purpose less consistent than wild ones? In my experience I have seen that sometimes flowering plants for beauty bought from the florist often do not play and need few days to learn how to use the device.

Tarek:

Clones, or plants that are genetically identical have showed less consistency with the music they produce than spontaneous plants of the same species. I have seen that in Lavender and in Oregano.

 

Terrier:

Have you discovered differences in sound between plants in the sun and plants in the shade?

Tarek:

Lavender is famous for being a sun loving plant. Even when the soil was visibly moist, some plants sounded angry as if they were shouting ” leave me alone”.

A gentle touch slowly persuaded this plant to sing more consistently.

When the plant is under extreme heat conditions and is fully exposed to the sun, it needs to work harder, or in more scientific terms use energy in order to maintain its water content stable. So, it wouldn’t dry out and die from the heat. A plant in full sun at over 40 degrees, with the soil not protected by mulch has less water available than a plant that is partially shaded by a tree, and supported by the tree roots. I understand that water availability is a determining factor for the sounds emitted by the plant when connected to the device.

 

Terrier:

Could you share some experiences you had worldwide?

Tarek:

For farmers, or in general people who work with plants regardless of their belief systems they didn’t show much skepticism, in fact all of them were eager to hear what the plants had to say and attempted to interpret the emotion the plant was conveying through the music.

A recent situation with a sales person: I attached the device to oregano in a field that was treated with herbicides. He said “she sounds lonely”.

The field has been treated with herbicides, and there were so many dead weeds surrounding oregano. Oregano itself is a spontaneous plant, and requires diversity to thrive.

Indeed, with plants dying around it and soil microbes compromised because of the herbicide application,  the plant would experience loneliness or missing the presence of other individuals. We are only recently starting to understand the dynamics that happen between different species within their rootzones, beyond competition, but more in terms of collaboration between plant species that naturally occupy the same biome.

A lot of this depends on intuition and observations. My key takeaway from this experience so far is that there are plants that express themselves fully and consistently, and this expression can equate to speech, plants try to explain things to us about themselves and the landscapes in which they live. There are plants that do not express themselves because of water shortage, stress, trauma or other factors. Regarding the example above about clones my theory would be this: the plant shares a space with hundreds of other plants sharing the exact same genetics, the plant would then wonder “who am I, really? What sets me apart?” Then could it not be possible that the plant’s ability to express itself, and learn the more complex ways to do so depends on achieving a sense of individuality?

Terrier:

This concept sounds in countertrend. In fact, now many scientists say that the plants are not single individuals but a group of plants. They seem to live in a  global consciousness. They do not have the sense of individuality but a sense of group.

Tarek:

I think a plant that expresses individuality doesn’t mean it doesn’t perceive itself as a member of a larger group. I need to do several more experiments, but the more a plant achieves this sense of individuality as it learns how to express itself in more complex ways, the more vulnerable it becomes. It is not confirmed yet, and I hope I can prove it not to be the case.

Similarly, a plant that has been pruned or cut would be traumatized by the immediate threat to their existence, or the impediment to the plant’s natural lifecycle. This feeling of loss would affect their self-expression if they are feeling incomplete. I have witnessed this in rose bushes I found in Grasse in France. Roses with braided branches (an old practice) had more consistent and even sang beautifully, than the ones that were pruned. Curiously when I said to my colleague that the braided one was better, the pruned plant stopped singing, as if expressing what we know as “jealousy”.

New research has established links between the plants ability to absorb and utilize different nutrients and their vulnerability to pest/disease attack. An interesting theory is that insects and pathogens that attack plants are actively removing unfit individuals, thus bringing back the nutrient these “unfit” plants have absorbed to return them to the soil, this way allowing other fit individuals to grow and thrive. Nature can be very pragmatic in that sense. A plant grows to develop a flower which is fertilized by pollinators to create the fruit and the seed, the seed is the key to the continuity of life and the existence of this species. Now if a plant is unable to fulfill this lifecycle, it will be a waste of nutrients and energy, and in nature there is no waste, but renewal, recycling and rebirth. On the contrary, plants that are strong and well-nourished are capable of defending themselves against pest and disease attacks by synthesizing chemicals that react immediately to these attacks, or even be so nutrient rich that herbivorous insects would only consume a small quantity of the plant tissue, or emitting olfactory signals that repel insects for example. Instead, a weak plant would emit olfactory signals that will attract herbivorous insects.

So how do we correlate the plants’ molecular signalling with the music of the plants?

How can we understand the nuances in the plant’s speech?

How can the plant’s ability to express itself guide our management practices in a way that benefits us and the plant without them being “enslaved”?

What i have learnt so far is a tiny fraction of the knowledge that is out there to explore.

 

Terrier:

Thanks for sharing with us your knowledge. We will be happy to continue this research together.

Tarek:

You’re welcome, happy to collaborate with you!

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