Friday, 22 July 2016

Science Shows How to Communicate with Plants

I must admit that I do have conversations with plants. I talk to the flowers growing in my garden and like to think that the trees in my local park whisper words of wisdom to me as I walk through on my way to the shops or the station.

If you want to know what I imagine the trees say, it is usually: "Why do you humans always rush about so much? Slow down, enjoy the sunshine. Feel the rain on your skin, the breeze in your hair and the earth beneath your feet. Take a deep breath and just enjoy the moment."

Now, apparently, scientists have developed a way to help us see and hear what plants are really saying. I got a press release about a kickstarter project for something called Phytl Signs, which can help you decode the language of plants. Here are the details I was sent:
Are you captivated and intrigued by how plants communicate? Would you like to accelerate plant science by helping to decode what your plants are actually saying? With Phytl Signs, an innovative and unique wearable for plants, you can! Available through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Phytl Signs already has over 130 backers and is over half way to reaching its funding goal. Make a pledge before the 29th July 2016 and join a community of people digitally connecting with their plants to ultimately understand them better! 
So, how does it work? Phytl Signs is essentially a plant monitor – but it’s unlike any other plant monitor – because it specifically listens in to what the plant itself is communicating rather than simply measuring the air temperature or the soil around it. It works by amplifying the electrical signals that plants use to communicate internally, allowing us, for the first time, to hear them (though a speaker attached to the device) and see them (through an app on your phone or tablet). Using Phytl Signs you can test how your plants respond to changes in their environment. For example, water or mist your plants, move them to a warmer or cooler spot, and observe, through their language of electrical signals, how they react. 
"It’s really different.... It will be good to see day-to-day variations and start to see patterns... you'll get to know your plants' signals," says Ken Hollis, a plant enthusiast, from Cheshire. 
Hearing and seeing what plants are telling us is, however, just one part of the Phytl Signs story. 
“By analysing the signals that plants use for internal communication we can start to unlock the messages within them,” says Nigel Wallbridge, Tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Vivent Sárl (the company behind the device). “Is a plant under attack from pests? Does it need water? Understanding what our plants are saying is exciting for everyone – from those who would like to take better care of their plants, to those interested in nature, the environment, sustainability, the future of food production... the possibilities are far reaching.”  
Through Phytl Signs you can be part of a community of people helping to decode the language of plants. You will be able to share your observations about the signals your plants are emitting and hear from others about their experiences too. And the signals your plants emit can be captured and analysed with those collected from Phytl Signs devices all over the world. This is crowdsourced data in action, real citizen science! 
Dr Robert Degli-Agosti of the University of Geneva, says: “The experiments that people do at home, when wisely collated will provide important pointers for very serious and disciplined academic or industrial research projects.” 
Using Phytl Signs to explore your plants’ signals provides a unique opportunity to be a plant science pioneer, and to build a deeper and more enriching relationship with your plants. The money you pledge via Kickstarter will buy the tooling and components for the first large production run, and allow the software for the app to be developed so that it is engaging, exciting and easy to use. Phytl Signs will be delivered to backers in April 2017.
You can find out more about the kickstarter project here:

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