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Careers in the countryside

Shuttleworth College students using laptops and smiling.
Peter Lickorish achieved a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Master of Horticulture with a Distinction at the young age of 23.

His success should act as an example to those who seek to pursue a professional career which supports the environment.

Many courses leading to careers in the countryside are available via the world-renowned Shuttleworth College in rural Bedfordshire, where Peter works part-time.

As part of his dissertation Peter pioneered a sponsored experiment to see if plants respond positively to sounds. He won £500 to support his experiment as part of his Masters.

Thanks to the wonderful news that I had won the Fred Roche Foundation Study Award. I was able to assemble enough high-tech equipment to put the notion that sound can enhance plant growth – an idea firmly entrenched in the ‘myths’ zone for most gardeners – to the test. 

Shuttleworth College staff member standing in potting sheddoorway.

Thanks to their support, and that of The Parks Trust, the Milton Keynes Community Foundation and Shuttleworth College, I am able to reflect upon what I have found and answer the question that I posed: can sound really aid plant propagation?

The simple answer is Yes. 

Through two experiments measuring seed germination in response to sound, and one establishing whether the rooting of stem cuttings is enhanced, I have generated clear evidence that particular sound frequencies can make a profound difference. However, that profound difference varies markedly depending on species.

Take Penstemon, for example. These are among my favourite plants as I am regularly able to coax them to carry on flowering even up until Christmas, and their nodding heads of colour-soaked flowers are a pilgrimage for the local bee population. My experiments have shown that 1 kilohertz sound – a steady hum – can increase germination by up to 400% relative to the rate without sound treatment, also shortening the average time taken to germinate by ten days.

So sound is a win for the Penstemons.

My experiments have shown that sound is definitely worth researching further. It is surprising how quickly time has flown during the conducting of these experiments, but also how much more rapid seed germination was of some species in my latest experiment. Also, with the health of cuttings improved, these observations potentially have positive implications for the production of plants. A lot of my findings are consistent with improved levels of particular hormones, auxins and gibberellins, in plants. The next step in measuring whether sound can do plant producers a useful service is to see whether sound can go beyond the current improvements to propagation achieved by applying these hormones synthetically.  If it can, then it really does sound as though I’m on to something.

For more on Peter’s progress go to:

Peter Lickorish’s Plant Paradise – Home | Facebook

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