Recording plant electricity

Hey, everyone!

I have been doing various projects over the last few years using both Arduino and Raspberry Pi but most are based on available tutorials. I teach neuroscience at the university level, and after seeing a TED Talk (Electrical experiments with plants that count and communicate | Greg Gage - YouTube) by Greg Gage I felt inspired to attempt something similar as a demonstration. Having some experience with microcontrollers and custom builds already, I felt there must be some other way of doing this than buying the proprietary equipment provided at Plant SpikerBox
I only want to be able to read the electrical signal from the mimosa plant, I do not need to transduce it into an electrical output to another plant. Briefly, what type of equipment do I need in order to do this? This is surely little more than reading a voltage at a certain sampling rate, but the original signal may need some amplification? Any suggestions?

I am posting this question both here and in the Raspberry Pi forums in order to see what the communities can offer, but you may of course suggest whatever system you think is appropriate.


An interesting topic "Bose provided direct evidence that long-distance, rapid electrical signaling stimulated leaf movements in Mimosa and Desmodium and also showed that plants produce continuous, systemic electrical pulses. Bose’s overall conclusion that plants have an electromechanical pulse, a nervous system, a form of intelligence, and are capable of remembering and learning, was not well received in its time. A hundred years later, concepts of plant intelligence, learning, and long-distance electrical signaling in plants have entered the mainstream literature".

Here is the paper quoted above; ("Plant neurobiology: an integrated view of plant signaling").

I found a paper that describes a monitoring system;

As you would expect the raw signals are going to be very small so you are going to have to purchase or make an amplifier and then use an analgue to digital converter with a suitable range and resolution. The graphs in the paper seem to have slow sample rates, 10Hz looks like ti would be fine.

Both the Arduino and the Pi could capture the data. Which is best depends on what you want to do with the data.

Thanks for your feedback! Is there such a thing as a generic amplifier that can be used for this purpose? I assume that the signal will need some cleaning up after recording unless the amplifier is tuned to the relevant frequencies?

I am not an electronics person. An amplifier takes in a waveform at one voltage level and should output the same waveform at a higher voltage. I guess there will be 'poor' amplifiers that introduce a bit of noise. It looked to me like the plant signals were low frequency so I don't think that the amplifier needs to be able to respond to quick input changes.

What you do need to ensure is that you have electrodes that will attach to the plants and give a good signal and that you know what the input voltage range is and what the required output range is for the A/D converter.

Looks like you BIGGEST challenge will be in making the electrodes.


Specifically, what makes electrode design the biggest challenge?

Specifically, what makes electrode design the biggest challenge?

Fundamentally, your electrode is connecting to a living environment and must not influence what you are trying to measure.


Thanks for your feedback! Is there such a thing as a generic amplifier that can be used for this purpose?

Not without knowing the electrical characteristics. What's the magnitude of the signals in voltage and current you expect to see?

Amplifiers may amplify current, voltage, or both. What you need depends on the signal you expect to get and whether it's polarity is always positive or can reverse as well. A pH probe type amplifier may be a good starting point.

You are looking at voltages similar to ECG readings.

google arduino ECG EKG

Tom… :slight_smile:

@cuddrow hi! did you find a way to build it? I’m trying to do the same at the moment and I’m struggling to find an answer. If you could share your knowledge would be great.

Thank you!

I can just envisage a plant with gel electrodes stuck to it. :laughing:

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A quick google
arduino plant polygraph

Produced some interesting hits.

It may help, some projects from ELEKTOR magazine, its the German edition but there should be an English version.

Tom… :grinning: :+1: :coffee: :australia:

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