To find out, China has been conducting the worlds largest experiment, which will fundamentally change agricultural production in the worlds most populous country.
From the remote Gobi Desert in Xinjiang to the eastern developed coastal areas, a nationwide electric cultivation project funded by the Chinese government is under way, involving more than 3,600 hectares of vegetable greenhouses.
Last month, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and other government research institutes published the results of the study in areas with different climates, soil conditions and planting habits over the past 30 years. They see the result as a breakthrough.
The technology has increased vegetable production by 20 to 30 percent, reduced pesticide use by 70 to 100 percent, and reduced fertilizer use by more than 20 percent.
These vegetables grow under bare copper wires. These copper wires are about 3 meters above the ground and extend from top to bottom under the roof of vegetable greenhouses. When powered on, the copper wires generate a fast positive charge of up to 50,000 volts, more than 400 times the voltage of a standard American home.
High frequency current can kill bacteria and viruses in air or soil, thereby inhibiting the spread of disease. It also inhibits the surface tension of leaves and accelerates evaporation.
Professor Liu Binjiang is a government agricultural scientist and a major member of the project. He said the current flowing through the copper wire is only one millionth of an ampere, lower than the working current of a smartphone.
He said: this is absolutely no harm to plants and people standing nearby.
Liu pointed out that as a result of the positive findings of the study, the area of Chinas electrified farms is growing at an unprecedented rate, with an annual increase of 1,000 to 1,300 hectares.
This means that in the next 12 months, the growth rate of electrical cultivation in China will reach 40%.
Most of the recent investment comes from the private sector, Liu said. Business is taking off. We are providing technology and equipment to other countries such as the Netherlands, the United States, Australia and Malaysia.
China is ahead of the rest of the world.
This is not always the case. In fact, China has been lagging behind for more than 200 years in this respect.
In 1746, just a few years before Benjamin Franklin caught lightning in a storm with a kite, Dr. Maimbray of Edinburgh, Scotland, gave electrical stimulation to two Myrtle plants.
He observed that trees had grown new shoots in October, something that has never happened before.
The news spread. A number of similar studies have been carried out across Europe, some confirming the discovery of Mambre, others not.
For example, an experiment in Turin, Italy, found that after an unusually high-yielding period, these plants began to become fruitless and gradually withered.
In 1902, S. Lemstroem, a physics professor, visited the Arctic and found that some trees grew faster in the aurora borealis than their counterparts in temperate southern climates.
Lemstroem attributed the phenomenon to the natural electric environment produced by Aurora (also known as aurora borealis). To prove this, he did a series of experiments in the laboratory and even wrote a book to promote his hypothesis.
Sir Oliver Lodge, a British physicist, was a key inventor of the development of radio. He read the book and did experiments on it. It is reported that in the experiment carried out on 8 hectares of wheat fields, the wheat yield increased by 24% to 39%.
This has attracted the attention of governments. In early twentieth Century, Britain and the United States commissioned research institutes to conduct research on electrical cultivation.
The result of Britain is positive, but the result of the United States is negative.
Most of these tests are small and often carried out in open fields. The conditions vary from place to place. The effects of different natural conditions make the results different, and there are no general hardware design standards or technical details about electrical cultivation, such as the voltage and frequency used in the experiment are different.
In these pioneering studies, scientists also lack advanced equipment. For example, they dont have todays portable spectrometers to study how plants respond to electricity at the molecular level.
Therefore, the explanation of observation phenomenon is still speculative. With the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, large-scale agricultural production has been realized and interest has waned.
China is leading
With the rise of organic agriculture, the public has rekindled interest in electrical cultivation. In 1990, the Chinese government began to subsidize this technology experiment.
In just two years, the electrical cultivation of vegetables has brought nearly 1 million 200 thousand yuan of extra income to the company.
We are still running the device and the power consumption is very low, he said.
An hectare of electrified greenhouses requires about 15 degrees of electricity a day, about half the electricity consumed by the average American household.
In the greenhouses, the smell of summer thunderstorms is pervaded in the air. Plants are seldom ill when humidity is low.
He said that the biggest cost is installation costs, and the necessary hardware costs are as high as tens of thousands of yuan. Without government support, the company could not afford to install power lines for all greenhouses.
Liu Yongyi is the boss of Beijing Metropolitan Green Sea Xinghua Tourism Agriculture Co., Ltd. in Daxing District, Beijing. The company also studies electrical cultivation. He said the technology will significantly improve crop quality by reducing pesticide use.
Pesticide residues are a major threat to public health. Electrical cultivation provides a physical solution for disease prevention and pest control. Its much cleaner than chemicals. He said.
Liu said tourists were curious when they saw the system, and he believed the public would soon accept the technology.
This theory is easy to understand. I believe that in the near future, people will be willing to pay higher prices for electrically grown vegetables and fruits. Liu said.
Professor Guo Yalong, a researcher at the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the effect of electricity on plants certainly exists. Although Guo Yalong was not involved in the project, he said, electricity is like air and water. This is part of the natural environment. Many electrical ions in plants carry negative or positive charges. They can respond to artificial electric fields nearby.
Chinas greenhouse area is more than 4 million hectares, and the annual output value of vegetables is nearly 1 trillion yuan. Professor Liu Binjiang said that since most farmers could not afford the investment independently, there were no plans to electrify all the greenhouses. His team took a different approach and developed a compact, integrated vegetable plantation using electrical cultivation techniques. Every family can grow their own food in the kitchen, balcony or backyard, he said. This small vegetable planting room uses artificial light source and electric field to stimulate plant growth and prevent disease. The operation is fully automated with little maintenance. Someday, these small houses will be a substitute for large farms, Liu said. This will trigger another agricultural revolution. Source: NetEase science and technology report editor: Yao Liwei _NT6056
Chinas greenhouse area is more than 4 million hectares, and the annual output value of vegetables is nearly 1 trillion yuan.
Professor Liu Binjiang said that since most farmers could not afford the investment independently, there were no plans to electrify all the greenhouses.
His team took a different approach and developed a compact, integrated vegetable plantation using electrical cultivation techniques.
Every family can grow their own food in the kitchen, balcony or backyard, he said.
This small vegetable planting room uses artificial light source and electric field to stimulate plant growth and prevent disease. The operation is fully automated with little maintenance.
Someday, these small houses will be a substitute for large farms, Liu said. This will trigger another agricultural revolution.