Do Added Nutrients in Soil Speed up Seed Germination?

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Author: Janice VanCleave

Plants rooted in soil obtain nourishment from it Soil supplies nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other chemical nutrients for plant growth and development

In this project, you will determine whether nutrients in the soil are necessary for seed germination. You will find the answer to the question, Can plants develop with only the nutrients provided by the soil? You will also compare seedlings grown in commercial liquid fertilizers to those grown in nutrients leached from soil.

Getting Started

Purpose:   To determine whether added nutrients speed up seed germination.


  • 10 pinto beans
  • 1-pint (500-ml) jar
  • distilled water
  • refrigerator
  • liquid plant fertilizer (5–10–5)
  • 1-gallon (4-liter) plastic milk jug
  • marking pen
  • masking tape
  • paper towels
  • 2 straight-sided drinking glasses
  • 2 sheets of black construction paper
  • stapler


Necessary Nutrients for Seed Germination

Necessary Nutrients for Seed Germination

  1. Place the beans into the jar and cover them with distilled water.
  2. Put the jar of beans in the refrigerator to soak overnight
  3. Prepare 1 gallon (4 liters) of the commercial liquid plant fertilizer by following the instructions on the package. Use distilled water to mix the fertilizer in the milk jug.
  4. With the marking pen, write "Nutrients" on a piece of masking tape and tape this label to the jug of liquid fertilizer.
  5. Prepare two separate containers of beans as follows:
    1. Fold one paper towel and line the inside of a glass with it.
    2. Wad together several paper towels and stuff them into the glass to hold the paper lining against the glass.
    3. Place five beans between the glass and the paper towel lining, evenly spacing the beans around the perimeter of the glass.
  6. Use the marking pen and tape to label one glass "Water" and the second glass "Nutrients" (see Figure 2.1).
  7. Moisten the paper towel in each glass with either distilled water or plant fertilizer as indicated. Keep the paper towels in the glasses moist, but not dripping wet, during the entire experiment
  8. Cover the outside of each glass with one sheet of black construction paper. Fold and staple the top and sides of the paper.
  9. Each day, until each bean germinates (five to seven days), remove the paper covering from each glass and observe the contents (see Figure 2.2).


The beans in each glass may vary somewhat in the time required for germination, but there is no major difference in the germination time of the beans with and without added nutrients.


The bean seeds moistened by water and those moistened by a nutrient (nourishment or food that promotes growth in living organisms) show no difference in the rate of their germination. Germination occurs even when there is a lack of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients. The nutrients in the soil are not used by the bean seeds to germinate. The seeds germinate (develop from a seed into a plant) when the content of each seed has properly matured and when the amounts of oxygen and moisture are adequate and the temperature is correct. The food supply necessary for germination is stored in the cotyledons (seed leaves) of the bean.

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