Gardening with Conductive Helical Coils 2016

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So despite the blog and my internet presence being quite mute as of late i actually have been up to quite a lot. My homemade Lulzbot Mini 3d Printer this summer was a success, amd i have constantly been improving it. At some point i will take some photos of it’s final progress. A few of my pea breeding crosses from last year were successful, including one i’m excited to grow again which is a cross of the Purple Passion dark purple seeded pea (which is a small genetically weak pea variety) with another stronger pea variety. That should produce something really cool in the coming years. And this fall and next spring i’m experimenting with school by going through a Precision Machinist course and am learning how to use milling machines, lathes, and CNC equipment to produce Aerospace quality components. Not sure if that’s something i want to do long term, but they are skills i’m interested in and can use throughout my life. So that’s new.

Anyway though, as a throwback or a revisit to my post in 2010 titled “Do Plants Really Need Sunlight?“, which has actually been one of the most visited posts on my blog over the years, i finally got around to building a few of those coils that sounded so interesting.

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Conductive Helical Coil around the stem of a plant

So the basic premise or idea behind using a coil of wire with electricity is that it produces a small amount of electricity or a magnetic current through the air. This is the same idea Nicola Tesla was after all those years ago when his imagination was captured with the idea that everything could have wireless electricity. And in many cases his dream has come true with an ever increasing amount of technology these days using induction to wirelessly power or heat things. The basic premise of applying this technology to plants comes from an article i read once that talked about how researchers were able to measure a small direct current from trees in a forest by placing nails in them. They then had ideas about placing nails in many trees and hooking them up together to power small electronics like a battery or cell phone charger, or a smoke alarm. Basically all plants (and maybe all living things) produce a bioelectric field of energy. If one can tap this field to harvest electricity, then why cant we tap into it and feed these plants with extra electricity to help them grow.

One question i asked in my old blog post was if plants even need sunlight at all as long as they are getting some form of energy to grow. I still haven’t done an experiment to test that idea, but it’s still an interesting question. Because it makes me wonder if there are ways plants could be grown in complete darkness.

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Regardless, this summer i finally built a prototype plant coil. I built it rather late in the season, so i really wasn’t able to give it a good test. My original plan was to plant 3 or 4 genetically identical tomato plants near each other in the relatively same soil with at least one plant being the control. I was then going to observe over the course of the summer f the tomato plants within the coils had larger and better growth than the control. That was plan anyway, i just didn’t quite get to it.

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You can see here we were trying to use a volt meter and another coil to see if we could detect that our coils were working. We weren’t having much success with the meter in the beginning and i don’t remember if we did later after increasing the power supply a bit. But in theory you should be able to measure with a second coil.

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I placed it on three smallest tomato plant clusters in the very late planted tomato patch. Interestingly enough, the three plants it happens to be on might be the only three blue tomato genetic varieties that survived my haphazard tomato disasters this year. Since placing the coils on these plants i have noticed an improvement in them and they have since catched up to the growth of the other tomato plants in that spot. Although at the same time i did also make a furrow and started watering them more. But even so i’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that the coils did help them go from “runt” status to catching up to the others. I may yet get a few tomatoes from the larger two before winter hits. Thanks to Gilbert for providing the motivation to actually build this project. And a thanks to the Homegrown Goodness plant breeding forum where i get so many of my adventurous gardening and plant breeding ideas. You guy’s are the best and a continual inspiration to me. Read more: http://alanbishop.proboards.com/thread/8623/breeding-tower-potato-ideas-wanted?page=13#ixzz4LoiDtFZE

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So, while my experimentation was a bit haphazard this year i think i still did ok. It was a fun project that went from an interesting patent to a cool project idea in my head and at the back of my mind, to a fully functional project / prototype. Plus i think these coils look cool. haha.

But it makes me wonder what other cool patents are out there that i can exploit, reverse engineer and build to experiment with. One of my next projects i think will go the opposite route and will be heavily steeped in Open Source as i think i will try and build a “Food Computer“. Basically it’s a small climate controlled aeroponic grow box. It should allow me to continue my plant breeding efforts even in the winter which is really what i want. Plus it will allow me to learn more about this “urban gardeng”, “vertical gardening”, and “aeroponic” stuff. I can’t wait to get back to pea, bean, and tomato breeding even though the summer and fall are waning fast. I think i’m going to repurpose my 2ft x 2ft t-slot frame that i was intending to turn into a large 3D printer and/or CNC mill. But it’s still going to be a long time before i finish that project, so i figured hey why not actually use it for something useful in the meantime! So.. that’t the plan.. 😀

 

 

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Do plants really need sunlight?

Electricity plays a vital role in plants. Usually in the form of Sunlight or Electromagnetic Radiation. Research workers are finding evidence that plant cells’ sensitivity to electric current can be exploited to enhance their growth.

Plants use Chlorophyll to produce their own energy for growth. But, what if we could grow plants faster by giving them a second source of energy (electricity)? Or what if we could grow plants completely in the dark by supplementing them with DC or AC current without giving them any sunlight at all?

 

A conductive helical coil is spaced around the stem of a plant

 

…It turns out, that we might be able to.

A while back i got the idea out of nowhere that we might be able to grow plants in the dark by giving them electricity instead. This led me on a deep quest to find out if anyone else had asked this question before. Long hours spent on Google produced some interesting results, which i forgot about until recently. It’s always been in the back of my mind.

I found several interesting results. One article i read, stated that a researcher had done experiments on trees in California, and discovered that they produce small amounts of electricity. At least i think it was California. A quick google search now, produces mixed information. Apparently researchers from Washington, Boston, Massachusetts all claim to have discovered that trees can produce electricity. So, who knows who discovered it first.

The next interesting idea is that by creating an alternating current through a coil around the stem of a living plant, results with the plant growing taller and larger, with more numerous and larger leaves, under otherwise normal growing conditions . That by itself is incredibly fascinating. It’s even got a patent!

“It is generally known that many types of life forces are affected by electrical phenomena. For example, proposals have been made to pass electrical current through the soil to regulate the growth of plants.

It has been found that passage of alternating current through a coil disposed closely around the stem of a living plant, and thereby subjecting the plant stem of induced EMF, results in significant modification of growing characteristics, with the plant growing taller and larger, with more numerous and larger leaves, under otherwise normal growing conditions .”

The third interesting experiment i uncovered was very close to the previous one. But instead used DC current applied to the plants root system. It not only goes on to state that the DC current increases growth like the precious one, but also states that plants were able to survive in the dark by feeding on the electricity instead of the sunlight. If true, this opens up whole new possibilities of growing food indoors or underground, without the need for expensive lighting. It might also help so our houseplants don’t die from lack of sunlight, like they normally do. (i couldn’t find the original research paper, but this seems to be the exact same info, and includes the idea of using a solar cell)

The last idea is about using ultrasonic sound waves to promote better plant growth. Apparently it seems it’s also well documented that plants can be affected both positively and negatively by certain frequencies. Even to the point of death in some cases. I honestly didn’t read much about the ultrasonic, because i was more interested in the other attempts. But, here is the info anyway.

I think i might attempt to build a helical coil, and attempt if i can successfully grow a plant inside during the winter. I’ve tried planting some plants indoors before, but because of the low amount of light they seem to die rather quickly. I may also try placing one of these around a corn plant in the spring, and seeing if it grows larger and taller than the rest.