Nature & Electricity – Part 2: Natural Earth Currents and Plant Health

Note: This article is part 2 of a chapter excerpt from our book on Electro-Horticulture. Enjoy…

If you missed the previous posts that were a part of this series, check out part 1.

In this mini-series, the goal is to focus on the interplay between natural forms of electricity and it’s impact upon plant-life. Here we’re going to continue on that topic, this time with respect to electrical currents that flow through the ground.

When I first learned about electroculture and I heard about the nitrogen-based lightning argument mentioned in part 1, it sort-of made sense to me. And as I learned more about the effect of electric fields on cells, i.e. how cells have the ability to sense and respond to electric fields, the idea that they responded during thunderstorms also made sense.

But I was totally surprised to learn that there are also electric fields constantly moving throughout the earth, imparting an effect on all life.

Telluric Electricity

In roughly the same time period that experiments with atmospheric electricity began, another earth-based electrical discovery was made: that the ground itself has an electrical component!

In the early 1860s, scientists around the world were experimenting with earth-based electrical systems in the form of earth batteries. In 1862, one scientist (Lamont, 1862) from the Munich Alps performed an experiment that showed the world the presence of natural electric fields running along the surface of the Earth. They also ran within the earth to some degree.

In this experiment, two metal plates were placed, some distance apart, into the ground along the Earth’s magnetic or astronomical meridians, i.e. north-south lines. They were then connected together using some wire along with a sensitive voltmeter or ammeter. What was observed was the presence of natural forms of electricity that were generally stronger in the north-south direction compared to the east-west directions. In fact, it was discovered that the strongest currents flowed south to north.

Upon further experimentation, the following additional observations were made. The currents:

  • Flow on the surface of the Earth
  • Follow a path of least resistance
  • Move between each hemisphere constantly
  • Move differently in the day and the night:
  • – Daytime: Currents move toward the equator
  • – Nighttime: Currents move toward the poles

Furthermore, by taking measurements in many different places, maps could be created showing the relative strength of these fields over certain geographic areas.

Modern Uses of Ground-Based Electric Currents

As an aside, one modern use of the knowledge that electricity flows within the ground is in the use of device called Wenner Arrays, which are devices that apply electric currents into the ground for the purpose of determining the location of geological features underground, e.g. The depth of bedrock, location of water or oil, etc.

Cosmic and Planetary Influences

So where do these Earth-currents come from?

A good portion of the “induced” electric fields over the planet come from interactions between the solar wind and the magnetosphere, which protects the planet from harmful cosmic radiation. They are also the result of interactions between the sun’s radiation and the planet’s ionosphere. Variations in these bodies range from subtle changes over days or weeks to rapidly changing geomagnetic “storms.” These storms are capable of inducing varying amounts of electricity in the ground. Thus, when there are changes in the electromagnetic activity in our atmosphere, the Earth is also affected.

An excellent resource on the subject of atmospheric and telluric electricity can be found in a collection of articles called The Earth’s Electrical Environment

Biological Effects from Natural Electric Phenomena

So what are the biological effects that come from the intersection between these cosmo-planetary energies and biology? Let’s look at a few case studies.

Electric Fields and Plant Life

Since we now understand that the air around us is naturally charged, we can form a hypothesis that states that plants (and perhaps all surface life as well) require exposure to electric fields in order to grow properly. This idea has been tested a number of times throughout history.

There have been a few studies that have shown that plants can have a difficult time surviving when grown under a form of electro-magnetic shielding known as a Faraday’s Cage. One early experiment was performed in 1898 by M. Grandeau, a French agricultural chemist, and M. Leclerq who performed studies into the effect of atmospheric electricity on plants. They discovered that shielding plants from the Earth’s electric field using a grounded wire net had a detrimental effect on plant health, stating that the plants looked “feebly” [via Electricity, A Popular Electrical Journal, Volumes 4-5, Electricity Newspaper Company, 1893]. It turned out that the uncovered plants grew 50 to 60 percent better than the shielded plants. Furthermore, they found that flowering and fruiting processes were adversely affected by the lack of electric field exposure. [via Artem and Lockyer.]

This has been studied in modern times too; here’s an example from Steven Magee, an author and researcher interested in the harmful effects of high-frequency electromagnetic RF radiation, that shows how plants suffer from a loss of chlorophyll content and other abnormalities when placed in an ungrounded wire cage. In this video, you’ll see how a houseplant is adversely affected by the lack of atmospheric electricity, as demonstrated by its nearly transparent, discolored, smaller and somewhat deformed leaves. Now that we can experimentally see that exposure to electric fields is essential, we can also see that there have been a number of other examples showing the positive influence from natural forms of electricity. Here are some examples [via here, chapter 16]:

  • Magnetic fields have been discovered as being used for the orientation of aquatic bacteria and migrating birds.
  • Telluric currents could play a role in the control of some fish.
  • Enhanced DNA synthesis has been reported for human fibroblasts exposed to magnetic field fluctuations that correlate with frequencies and amplitudes similar to geomagnetic occurrences.
  • Weak magnetic fields (e.g. those from solar storms or geomagnetic fields) may affect how chemical reactions perform.
  • And, as will be covered throughout the rest of the book, plants react to electric fields through faster growth, greener leaves and stems, increased root mass and more!

Ground Current and Human Health

In addition to being beneficial to plants and animals, it’s worth mentioning that it is suspected that ground currents play a significant role in keeping humans healthy too! In fact, native folklore around the world suggests that it’s best to spend time outside, in nature, with bare feet on the ground. A friend of mine told me that his Pakistani grandmother used to tell him how wonderful it felt to be outside early in the morning on bare feet, when the dew was dew was still present on the ground (because it provides a better electrical connection). In the Chinese tradition it has been suggested that maximum health comes from the practice of Chi Kung (also spelled as QiGong), practiced outside in bare feet.

Just recently I was reminded of these ideas when a colleague introduced me to the documentary, The Grounded. The film showcases a small town in Alaska as well as physicians, scientists, and even an astronaut, talking about the free healing energy that’s available to us at all times – simply connecting to the Earth.

As you’ll see in the movie, grounded sunflower plants sitting in water last a whole lot longer than those plants isolated from their natural planetary connection. Check out this movie to see some interesting experimentsand case-studies on the benefits of connecting not only plants, but also ourselves, to the Earth.


Now that we understand that electrical energies (and magnetic ones, too) are present all around us, and furthermore that they have a favorable effect on the promotion of life, it follows suit that as engineers and scientists, we can take this science to the next level by making it practical.

Since we know that low levels of baseline energies are required for (plant) life to simply survive, and we also know that there have been times that life seems to flourish when there is an abundance of electrical energy present, the next step is to figure out how we can develop engineered methods to optimize growth processes at our own discretion, rather than hoping for a few passing thunderstorms to enhance growth.

  • Hey John,

    Thanks for stopping by! Yeah… As you can tell, I’m a big fan of his work as well – first heard about this stuff through a podcast that’s no longer going on by Walter Crittenden. Do you have a website where you share your research or thoughts?

  • John Bierma

    Yes i agree that the crop circles tie into this. We have what look like micro wind bursts near our stone circle that people try to explain by shear winds. The areas may be 100 yards in diameter. The trees are twisted like a tornado touch down only there. I think they may be plasma vortexes attracted to the fault line and magnetic dipole under our circle from the ionosphere. The circle is on the top of Angelines bluff which is the ridge of a 62 mile deep part of the midcontinental rift. I think telluric current traveling roughly southeast to northwest during the evening and the opposite in the morning, hit the rift at a right angle creating an elipses there. It is also an area known for uranium deposits and high levels of surface radon coming out of the fault lines. I have read this creates a high level of negative ions. Natives and current resident see earth lights (plasma discharges) late at night over the surrounding islands. The indians have the largest above ground cemetery there in the world with over 3600 spirit houses on Garden Island. They placed them there because of the many earth lights.

  • John Bierma

    I gave the book to my brother who is the head EE at Dephi electric car lab in Kokomo, IN He agrees and helped me understand how henges are the same as “chokes” used in modern electronics. There are some henges on top if glacial eskers in mid-michigan on the midcontinental rift. The ancients really did understand this on a grand scale. I think they did use them as gardens along the glaciers during the last ice age and later until the Hopewell culture died out.

    • Would you mind trying to tell us more about the relation between henges an electrical “chokes”? I think of chokes as being devices that stop or suppress high-frequency energy. I would love to hear more on this.

      • John Bierma

        This introduction to chokes or reactants explained how it can finction like a battery ans store energy. Also you need to forget about high frequency and ac. Telluric earth currents are dc low frequency. Depending on the ferric composition some chokes dont stop or change the current but form an ecectromagnetic field that can increase it or concentrate it. That is my understanding of what John Burke says henges do in his book. Chokes are also used as tuners in audio electronics to create a certain harmonic frequency.

      • John Bierma

        Indiction seems to be operating in a henge as a reactant or reactor to the telluric current. Most are built over or around a conductive mass or rift or as in michigan an esker of quartz sand and clay. The electron movement formed by two types of differently conductive earth form a dipole in the earth called a magnetic anomaly. According to Burke telluric current passing on the surface of the ground hits the henge or mound which causes inductance. The flat semi circles form a flat type of Tesla coil on the surface of the earth that seems to conentrate and intensify the field at that point as Burke’s measurements proved. As Burke showed, this increase is only beneficial to plants and humans to a certain intensity and period of exposure. After that, it hurts them. See wiki on inductor.

      • John Bierma

        Plants and humans are inductors. If henges function as inductors of dc telluric current as Burke suggests, then inductance happens in and around the henge:

        In electromagnetism and electronics, inductance is the property of an electrical conductor by which a change in current flowing through it induces an electromotive force in both the conductor itself[1] and in any nearby conductors by mutual inductance.[1]

        • John Bierma

          This is a possible explaination why adding iron oxide or volcanic rock and dust to garden soil improves it. It is electrical, not chenical.

      • John Bierma

        In trying to undertand how henges work as Burke suggests, I am over my head in most articles when it comes to the math. Pictures help me more with narrative. This MIT article helps. The circle formed by the henge or mound basicly forms a single loop coil. Some henges like at Poverty Point, Louisiana have six concentric loops. This henge had a wooden tower in the center, there may have been a big copper rock on it, who knows? The rings are made of iron oxide and magnetite and the valleys between are a dialectic insulator. It is built like a big planar coil. I have lots to learn!!!

        • Looking at the satellite photo of Poverty Point, I see a river running next to it… perhaps if there was electrical energy running through the river or perhaps the structures adjacent to it, perhaps like you said the henges act like a flat inductor coil, creating concentrated amounts of magnetic energy over the center of the henge, polarized either north-up or south-up in relation to the time of day and the direction of current flow.

          Like in Burke’s book – many shamens would use these sites for inducing visions… perhaps that was a part of it… and perhaps, broadly thinking about New Orleans Voodoo, perhaps there was a link to this region’s activity for rituals. Just an idea…

          Alternatively, if the energy came from someplace other than the river, perhaps the purpose was the add magnetic charge to the river which as I’ve seen on others’ sites, carries charge of some kind with it that is also very beneficial for plant life in a similar way. So if it acts as a magnetic energy generation station – it could have been engineered to supply downstream farms that potentially used irrigation as a way of improving the growth of their crops, albeit using magnetic rather than electrical energy.

          What do you think?

          • John Bierma

            The distiction bewern electrical and magnetic energy is hard for me to tease out since they occur together. We think that Macon Ridge on which Poverty Point is built was an island with Mississippi river channels on both sides. Moving water creates current. There is also a natural spring on north side. Yes I agree. The rings themselves could have been raised beds with water coursed between them both for irregation and electrical generation through the coil. Being conductive henges they would have intensified the ground diural telluric currents in the area. The psychic part is popularized by the Sedona effect from Sedona, NM where there is an intense magnetic anomaly like Poverty Point.

          • John Bierma

            Yes I was reading that when the conditions right on a mound or henge the electrical currents cause temporal seisures that are accompanied with visions or hallutionations. It is called Vision Quest. In Canada the stone donut shaped circles called Thunderbird Nests are built on quartz bed rock out croppings that are natural electrical hot spots as Burke documents. It is said that these were used for Vision Quests. As holy sites they may have brought seeds there and humans for health.

          • John Bierma

            This is a useful paper. I still need to understand more about how the geometry of a conductor or resistive body determines dynamics. My brother designs cages based on frequency to block or channel currents. How this works in agriculture is fascinating either in the field or in indoor grow systems.


          • John Bierma

            Magnetite in soil and plant growth


      • John Bierma

        David: I think this article does the best job yet in explaining how electric fields are intensified by henges built with or on conductive earthen materials. There are 2 and 3D images showing how telluric currents are actually attracted to them and are guided by the henge. The key areas are the edges between resistive and conductive earth. I don’t understand why they are all circles or donut/toroids shaped like single loop coils. The shape of the conductor is important but I don’t understand the dynamics.

        • I was unable to fully download the MIT materials, but the one you mention here looks very interesting…. I’m trying to catch up on some things and hope to dive into what you’ve been saying over the next few days. Thanks for your explanations and for bringing up this really cool body of research!!

      • John Bierma

        This is a good review paper on the effects of electric fields on cell growth.

        • Thanks, John – good article & illustrations! I like how it gets into the movement of cells in an electric field…. fascinating stuff.

    • That makes sense… As I’m re-reading Burke’s book now after a long time, I can undertand that if the underlying geology supported it, then the placement of henges in glacial regions would have been a way to “engineer-in” more sustainable ways of growing food in those climates.

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