The Effect Of Acid Rain On Seedling Germination

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Author: Shumit DasGupta
Life Science 
Grade Level
Late Middle/High school 
Difficulty of Project

Inexpensive pH solutions can be made with distilledvinegar solutions. If a basic pH solution is desired, Na OH can be used, but is not necessary. All other materials can be purchased at the grocery store, with the possible exception of pH testing strips- almost always available in High School labs. Overall cost?

Safety Issues

Care should be taken when mixing solutions. All safety hazards and guidelines that apply to any chemicals used should be followed. 

Material Availability

Almost all high school labs will have access to pH paper. Everything else can be purchased at the grocery store. 

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project  

Set-up is minimal, and can be completed in an hour, after purchasing supplies. Data collection is also minimal- 20 minutes every few days. The growth of seedlings, however, simply takes time, so budget for approximately three weeks. 


This project hopes to determine whether pH- and by extension, acid rain- has any discernable effect on the germination and growth of seedlings, particularly aricultural crops.

The goals are to quantify growth of seedlings at various pH levels, and to speculate about the effect of acid rain in non-laboratory conditions.

Materials and Equipment / Ingredients

  • 1 bag of pinto ( or other agricultural) beans.
  • Distilled vinegar or concentrated lemon juice
  • Distilled water- at least two gallons
  • Ziploc Baggies, medium size
  • Paper towels
  • Sharpie markers
  • String
  • Metric ruler
  • Plastic pipettes.
  • pH testing strips  All materials are available at the grocery store, with the exception of pH testing strips and pipettes, which are generally available in most school laboratories. Any type of eyedroppers, or even straws, can be substituted for pipettes. Links are provided below to purchase these materials should they not be available at school. 


Acid rain is becoming more and more of a problem for our world. Outside of industrial pollutants, like nitrogenous and sulfuric oxides, even excess carbon dioxide can affect the pH of rainwater. One question that arises is ‘How will agriculture be affected?” plants rely on rainwater, and obviously have no control over its acidity. 

We can explore one aspect of plant growth- germination and initial growth- fairly simply. Pinto beans ( phaseous vulgarus) are a major agricultural crop, and fairly easy test subjects to work with. We can moniter how many plants germinate and thrive under different acidic conditions in order to better determine the effect of acid rain will have on the agricultural sector.

Research Questions
  • What is pH, and what does it measure?
  • How is acid rain created?
  • What is the normal pH of rain?
  • How does acidity affect plant growth?
  • What are some of the major agricultural staples throughout the world?
  • What is germination?
  • What is the ‘anatomy’ of a seed?
  • What is the ‘anatomy’ of a seedling?
  • What are the initial parts of a growing seedling? 
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

Seed, seedling, pH, aciditiy, acid rain, commercial pollutants, air pollution, radicle, stem, cotylydon.

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