Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
to a zinc plate of the same dimensions, placing them 200 feet apart at opposite ends of a
row of potatoes. When the potatoes were harvested from the electrified row, they were five
times larger in diameter than other potatoes grown at the same time in fields that weren't
electrified 5 .
Once the discovery of an inexpensive way to generate electricity in the ground was made,
and the beneficial effects of growing within this “battery” were demonstrated, interest
in this idea grew. Many of the records from the late 1700s to the 1930s show people
experimenting with earth batteries and their effects on plants.
Sir H. Davy, a British chemist and inventor, found that seeds placed closer to the positive
electrode of an earth battery germinated faster than those placed closer to the negative pole
(he attributed this effect to the fact that the positive pole generates oxygen underneath the
soil). He also ran several experiments on barley, wheat, rye, radishes, turnips, and others
and found that plants exposed to even a minimal amount of electrical stimulation achieved
greater growth than those that weren't electrified 6 .
However, not all of the early electroculture experiments achieved positive results.
Experimenters named Helmert and Wollny performed experiments where the resulting
cropswereweakerandotherswherethecropsevendied 7 . Manyunaccounted-forvariables
could have been the cause of the failures and, without detailed observations, and soil
analyses, it would be difficult to determine the reasons some experiments failed while
others flourished.
A lack of detailed measurements, as well as crude experimental methods led to much early
criticism. In some cases not enough plants were measured to make up a substantial sample
size. In any case, researchers have determined that this method doesn't work equally well
with all plants, and this discovery may have led to a downturn of interest in this field.
However, there were many more successes than failures. Here are some examples of these
early successes from the Cyclopedia of American Agriculture :
• AgrowerbythenameofFitchnerdemonstratedverypositiveresultsfromgrowing
buckwheat, summer wheat, peas and other crops with yield increases of 16 to 127
• Sheppard in 1846 used copper and zinc plates 2 feet long and 9 inches wide, 9 feet
apart for his earth battery experiments. Many plants germinated poorly, except for
turnips which did better than those in his control group .
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