NewScientist story on a recent preprint regarding plants emitting squeals when in stressful conditions includes additional expert opinions
Adam Vaughan, a reporter on NewScientist wrote an article based on an experiment conducted by a team of scientists at Tel Aviv Univeristy in Israel that suggest that their audio recordings reveal that tomato and tobacco plants make ultrasonic high-pitched sounds when stressed by a lack of water or when their stem is cut.
The story begins by explaining that generally plants are capable of seeing, hearing, and smelling but that there is little research in the sounds that plants make. The author mentions cavitation, a process whereby air bubbles form and implode inside the xylem of plants, then explains how these vibrations have been picked up by devices in previous studies. The author explains how the experiment conducted by the team at Tel Aviv University was the first to record sounds picked up from a microphone at a distance, placed 10 centimeters from the plants, and were then able to discriminate the plant sounds from background noise, and distinguish the type of stress as well as which plant made the sound, based on a machine-learning model able to distinguish between these sounds.
The news article itself was unbiased and not an opinion piece clearly summarizing the methods, results, and possible implications of the results with no jargon. The author did not include personal opinions and simply summarized the research paper which was linked and publicly available. Although the article was written based on an unpublished and non peer reviewed paper, this was clearly stated for the reader, and the author included the opinions of experts Anne Visscher and Edward Farmer. The experts were skeptical of the results and speculations that the researchers made in the paper, as explained in this article. The author states that the researchers have speculated that these sounds may be heard by some insects, mammals, and even other plants and possibly influence them, and that these sounds can be used in agriculture to understand the state of the crop and if the plants are stressed. The author quotes Anne Visscher and Edward Farmer and how these speculations cannot yet be broadened to other forms of stress, and that the speculations may be “a little too speculative” and that further research is necessary to back them up.
A recent discovery has found that tobacco and tomato plants produce airborne sounds when cut or under drought stress. Israeli researchers have recorded the high-frequency sounds that these plants produce. They placed microphones ten centimetres away from the plants to record any sounds produced. They have speculated that animals may be able to detect the high-frequency sounds up to 5 metres away from a plant. Plants that are enduring stress produce sound more frequently than the unstressed group. The researchers have suggested that there may be agricultural uses of this new-found information. In the New Science article, Adam Vaughan steered clear of presenting any speculations made by the researchers as fact and consulted different experts in the field.
Adam Vaughan summarizes a study on sounds that tomato and tobacco plants have been discovered to produce under some forms of stress. Researchers in Israel have discovered that plants do in fact produce airborne sounds that could potentially be heard by other plants and animals. The scientific article in question is unpublished but is cited and a link is provided in the New Scientist article.
Adam Vaughan accurately describes the study and the potential uses of this new information. Despite the promising implications, he did imply it as the truth. Dr. Itzhak Khait’s article, although promising, was not focused on determining if animals can hear the plants and was limited to two stressors. This means that any claims that were made in the scientific article are speculative. The article discusses other perspectives on these claims.
The news article includes the opinion of skeptics Edward Farmer and Anne Visscher. Edward Farmer doubts some of the speculations, especially that moths use these sounds to determine which plants to avoid. Anne Visscher believes that this would be beneficial for agriculture once more research is conducted on other plant stressors. The news article strengthens itself by providing these contrasting perspectives and by not making unfounded claims.
The scientific article was cited in the news article and it was made clear which information was drawn from the scientific article. While the news article was well written, the scientific article that Adam Vaughan wrote about is unpublished, meaning it has not been peer-reviewed. Despite that, the article is publicly available. Throughout the article there are very minimal advertisements, but there is an occasional popup to subscribe to the website which can be distracting. Adam Vaughan has a publicly available profile that is linked to his article, within his profile, his social media and biography is provided as well as other articles that he has written.
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