Volume 21 - Issue 4

Minireview Biomedical Science and Research Biomedical Science and Research CC by Creative Commons, CC-BY

Magnetic Fields in Plant Development: Unravelling the Complex Interplay from Phenotypic Responses to Molecular Dynamics

*Corresponding author:Gregory C Bernard, College of Agriculture, Environment, and Nutrition Sciences, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL, 36088.

Received: February 06, 2024; Published: February 09, 2024

DOI: 10.34297/AJBSR.2024.21.002854


The geomagnetic field (GMF) is a pervasive environmental factor shaping the development of living organisms, particularly plants. This mini review traces the historical evolution of magnetic field research in plants, highlighting early experiments by Krylov, Tarakonova, and others and the subsequent development of controlled experimental setups using shielding and Helmholtz coils. Phenotypic responses to magnetic fields, ranging from growth and productivity enhancements in various crops to impacts on overall plant health, protein formation, and root development, are explored. Molecular perspectives delve into the intricate gene expression patterns, focusing on the roles of the impact of magnetic field exposure (MFE) on the transcriptomes of different plant species. Furthermore, recent findings on linoleic acid metabolism in collards and tomato seeds provide insights into the complex molecular dynamics triggered by magnetic field exposure (MFE). However, controversies and conflicting findings in the literature are addressed, emphasizing the need for comprehensive models that consider species, genotype, treatment duration, and culture medium. The review concludes by underscoring the importance of novel research paradigms to disentangle plant responses’ multifaceted and often contradictory nature to magnetic fields across phenomic, genomic, and molecular levels. Understanding the complex relationship between plants and magnetic fields is essential for advancing our knowledge of these fields’ significant impact on plant development. This comprehension is crucial for unravelling the intricate interplay and exploring how magnetic field exposure protocols can be utilized to enhance agricultural production.


The geomagnetic field (GMF), an inherent component of our environment, has influenced all living organisms throughout evolution. Consequently, investigating the impact of magnetic fields on organisms has become a focal point for researchers. As responsive entities to diverse environmental stimuli, plants undergo molecular alterations manifesting in observable physiological and physical changes during growth and development. This mini review explores the multifaceted relationship between Earth's magnetic field (MF) and plant behaviour from historical perspectives to contemporary research.

Historical Insights and Experimental Setup

In the early 1960s, the seminal work of Krylov and Tarakonova [1] proposed an auxin-stimulated growth response in germinating seeds attributed to magneto tropism. Subsequent studies, such as those by Boe and Salunkhe [2], extended this phenomenon to describe a ripening effect in tomatoes. Audus and Whish [3] further contributed by exposing plant organs to magnetic fields, unravelling insights into the mechanism of gravity perception in plants. Classifying weak or low magnetic fields (0.5mT to 100nT) and higher intensities paved the way for controlled experiments in research laboratories. Utilizing shielding with high magnetic-permeable ferromagnetic metal plates and compensating with Helmholtz coils became a common practice, enabling the exploration of plant responses to varying magnetic field intensities.

Phenotypic Responses: Growth and Productivity

Numerous reports indicate that plants exhibit significant growth and productivity in response to magnetic fields. Sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) seeds exposed to 57-60mT showed increased germination rates and percentages, increased fruit quality, faster growth rates, and higher phosphorus and vitamin C [4]. Similarly, snow peas (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) and chickpeas (Cicer arietinum L.) significantly improved the emergence rate index, shoot dry weight, and nutrient content after magnetic treatment [5]. It is also suggested that magnetic field exposure (MFE) may have implications on overall plant health [6], protein formation, and root development [7,8]. MFE was associated with increased production of moieties, chlorophyll contents, and reactive oxygen species-scavenging enzymes in soybeans (Glycine max) [9]. The elongation of pea (Pisum sativum) epicotyls, most evident in the middle portion, was promoted by low-intensity magnetic fields [10]. Emerging data indicate that applying distinct magnetic field frequencies might modulate fruiting and macronutrient production in the garden strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa cv. camarosa) [11].

Molecular Perspectives: Gene and Metabolic Expression Patterns

Plant developmental processes, initiated at the molecular level, prompt an investigation into the effect of MFE on gene expression patterns. Despite numerous reports focusing on biological responses after exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), understanding modifications in gene expression patterns remains limited. In Arabidopsis, CRY1 and CRY2 genes encoding cytochrome receptors are central to processes involving blue light regulation, flowering, root growth, plant height, and pathogen defense [12]. The geomagnetic effect of a near-null magnetic field in Arabidopsis plants resulted in significant changes in the expression patterns of cryptochrome signaling-related genes PHYB, CO, and FT [13]. In cry1/cry2 mutants, the levels of the four identified gibberellins (GAs) in fruits exposed to near-null magnetic fields showed no significant differences compared to controls. The downregulation of GA20-oxidase (GA20ox) genes (GA20ox1 and GA20ox2) and GA3-oxidase (GA3ox) genes (GA3ox1 and GA3ox3) in fruit occurred in wild-type plants rather than cry1/cry2 mutants under the influence of the near-null magnetic field. Conversely, the near-null magnetic field did not impact the expressions of GA2oxidase (GA2ox) genes and GA signaling genes. These findings suggest that the near-null magnetic field-induced suppression of fruit growth is mediated by cryptochrome, and GAs regulate fruit growth in response to this magnetic field condition [14]. Whole genome microarray analysis exposed Arabidopsis plants to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RFEF) for 24 hours, revealing differential expression patterns in a few transcripts yet an inconclusive molecular response [15]. Arabidopsis responses to the Geomagnetic Field (GMF) were evaluated through a transcriptomic time-course analysis using gene microarray technology. Arabidopsis seedlings were grown vertically in Petri dishes and exposed to Near Null Magnetic Field (NNMF) conditions for 10 minutes to 96 hours. Nine genes exhibiting significant expression (< 0.05) and fold changes > 2 were identified. Functional characterization of these genes revealed involvement in hydrolase activity (At1g56680, At1g66270, At1g66280), binding activity (At1g74500, At5g66280, At2g25980), transporter activity (At5g50800), seed storage (At2g37870), and one gene with an unknown function (At2g41800) [16]. Recent research has revealed a marked upregulation of linoleic acid metabolism in collards (Brassica oleracea var. viridis) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) seeds subjected to a specific low-intensity magnetic field (4.7 Gauss) for 2 hours within six days [17]. This observation suggests the potential of species-specific magnetic field exposure (MFE) protocols to stimulate the production of valuable bioactive compounds, opening new avenues for agricultural bioengineering. Despite these studies, plant responses to magnetic field exposure (MFE) at various intensities have been controversial.

Controversies and Conflicting Findings

While numerous studies have championed the positive effects of MFE on plants, controversies inevitably arise when conflicting findings emerge. Tkalec, et al. [18] reported decreased growth in plants exposed to specific electromagnetic field strengths while flowering in Arabidopsis spp. was delayed under a near-null magnetic field. A measurable decrease in the fresh weight of shoots and roots and the dry weight of shoots and roots were displayed in barley (Hordeum vulgar) after MFE at a relatively low intensity [19]. In-vitro studies on MFE to Solanum spp. showcased species dependent responses, emphasizing the intricate interplay of species, genotype, initial explant, treatment duration, and culture medium. Various exposure periods were investigated, revealing contrasting effects on the growth of roots, stems, and leaves in vitro after 14 or 28 days. Notably, one experiment demonstrated a significant increase in leaf growth at the biochemical level, with the quantities of chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, and carotenoids showing more than a two-fold increase [20]. Therefore, it is justified to pursue the creation of more comprehensive models that elucidate the impact of Magnetic Field Exposure (MFE) across phenomic, genomic, and molecular levels.


This review comprehensively integrates historical knowledge, phenotypic observations, and molecular insights to elucidate the impact of magnetic fields (MFE) on plant development. The multifaceted and often contradictory nature of plant MFE responses highlights the necessity for novel research paradigms. By delving into the molecular intricacies, untangling actual MFE effects from phenome to metabolome and genome is critical to illuminating the intricate interplay between plants and magnetic fields.


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