Do Added Nutrients in Soil Speed up Seed Germination? (page 2)

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Author: Janice VanCleave

Try New Approaches

  1. How long does a bean plant grow with food supplied only from the cotyledons? Continue to water the contents of each glass with the indicated liquid. Note: Keep the glasses and plants covered with dark paper so that the plants do not receive light and produce food by photosynthesis (the formation of carbohydrates in chlorophyll-containing tissue of plants exposed to light). Measure and record the daily growth and development of each bean seedling. Continue observations for 30 days or until one or both sets of plants die.
  2. Does the growing medium affect the results? The paper towel provides no nutrients to the growing plant. Repeat the original experiment using other nonnutrient mediums such as LECA (light expanded clay aggregate), sand, gravel, charcoal, sawdust, and vermiculite or perlite.
    1. Can seedlings mature with only the food produced in their leaves by the reaction of photosynthesis? Repeat the original experiment omitting the black paper covering and instead placing the glasses where they will receive equal amounts of sunlight each day. Measure and record the daily growth and development of leaves, stems, and roots. Continue observations for 30 days or until one or both sets of plants die.
    2. Make your own plant fertilizer and compare its results with the purchased commercial fertilizer. Growing plants in liquid nutrients without soil is called hydroponics. A homemade hydroponic solution can be made by mixing together 1 teaspoon (5 ml) each of baking soda and Epsom salt and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) each of saltpeter (sodium nitrate) and household ammonia. Mix in 1 gallon (4 liters) of tap water that has been allowed to stand in an open container for one day so that the chlorine added by municipal water suppliers can evaporate. Do not use water that has been processed by a water conditioner. Hard water is actually better than soft water because it contains calcium and magnesium, which are useful to plants. Repeat the previous experiment using the commercial nutrient to water one container and the homemade nutrient to water the second container. Make daily observations and determine how long the plants survive with artifically added nutrients.
    3. Plants in nature do not receive commercial or homemade fertilizers. Repeat the original experiment using nutrients from soil. Remove the nutrients from soil by filtering water through nutrient-rich soil secured from a nursery or a wooded area. Put the soil in a cheesecloth and set the cloth in a food colander that rests on the rim of a large pot. Pour 1 gallon (4 liters) of water into the soil. After all of the water has drained through, remove the water from the pot and pour it into the soil again. Repeat this procedure six times so that the water dissolves as many of the nutrients in the soil as possible.

Design Your Own Experiment

  1. Do all soils provide the necessary nutrients for plant growth? Collect soil samples from as many different locations as possible. Prepare containers for the different soil samples and plant seed such as ryegrass seed in each container. Make a data table for each seed used similar to the one for rye grass seed shown here to record observations from each experiment. Keep all tables in your journal. To represent the progress of the experiments, display the data tables along with photographs taken of the developmental stages of the plants.
  2. Do different types of grass give the same results in the soil as the ryegrass seed? Repeat the previous experiment using the same soil samples but different grass seed. Use photographs and diagrams showing the development of the plants to represent the procedure and results. Display living plants. Remember to plant seeds the appropriate number of days before the science fair in order to have samples ready for the project display.

Get the Facts

  1. All commercial fertilizers are labeled with numbers to give the buyer information about the nutrient content of the products. Each product may have a different amount of each nutrient, but the listings are always in the same order. Use a gardening book to find information about this labeling code. What are the identified nutrients and what is their order in the number code? What does it mean when the fertilizer is labeled 5–10–5?
  2. Fertilizers can provide necessary nutrients for plant growth. Is it always necessary to use these additives? Can they be overused? Runoff water contains dissolved materials from the soil. How do fertilizers washed out of the soil affect living organisms in rivers, lakes, streams, or other bodies of water? The United States Agricultural Extension Service has an office in every county seat This agency can provide information about fertilizers and their uses and safety.
  3. Some gardeners use organic nutrients. Find out more about organic gardening. How do organic nutrients affect the environment? What is a compost? Can organic nutrients be used for large-scale food production?
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