The purpose of this project is somewhat to discover the most ideal method for growing plants, but we are mostly stressing the question: Are organic methods of plant growing better than methods involving use of chemicals and other unnatural substances? We have planted 576 bean plants in the university greenhouse due to weather conditions and season. They are being subjected to various types and water levels and two different types of soil. Our variety of water includes regular tap water, distilled water, and chemically treated water provided by the greenhouse. Half of our beans have been placed in an all-natural soil compound (our own mix), and also in a chemically fertilized soil that the greenhouse regularly uses. In addition to the water and soil conditions, we will also be testing the growth of each type when they are exposed to virtually no sunlight. We will be measuring the growth rates of the bean plants by collecting data on the plant height, stem width, and number of leaves. If they have enough time to grow to the point of producing bean pods, then we will also add that factor into our calculations. We hypothesize that the seeds subjected to all natural factors will produce the best results.
We decided on this project based on our interest in the topic and relation to real world situations. We were particularly interested in the topic of chemical vs. natural. This led us to study certain questions pertaining to organic and chemical growing methods. Our list of accomplishments by the end of this study will include having further knowledge of general agriculture and proof that organic agriculture is the way to go (assuming our hypothesis is correct). We think that finding the advantages or disadvantages of either growing method on our own will provide fresh, new, and simple yet educational insights on the topic. And further yet, knowledge gained could be put to use in the future in the way of growing our own food.
3. MATERIALS AND METHODS
Our basic experimental design involves planting beans in multiple flats. Overall, these flats will be set up to test four different variables. The plants will be broken down into two soil mediums. Half will be planted in the chemically treated soil that the Boyd Hall greenhouse uses for most of its applications. The other half of the beans will be planted in our own mixture of one part composted manure to two parts organic topsoil. Within these two groups of soil, we will be testing three other variables. The first of these is the type of water used to feed the plants. The three types of water are using are:
1. Tap water
2. Distilled water
3. Chemically fertilized water
All three types are piped throughout the greenhouse. The second variable is the amount of water that the plants will receive. These amounts of water (per day) are as follows:
1. 1 cup per flat (1/3 ounce per plant)
2. 2 cups per flat (2/3 ounce per plant)
3. 3 cups per flat (1 ounce per plant)
The third variable within the two soils is the amount of sunlight the plants will receive. One group receives full sun, the second receives less because they are underneath a table. For this reason, the second group will receive far less direct sunlight. This chart shows how the 24 flats will be set up.
Extra Water Less Water Normal Light and Water Less Light
Chemical Water Control Group
Green house Soil
Each of the 24 squares represents a flat of beans. The plants grown in the greenhouse soil receiving 2 cups of chemically treated water and full sun will serve as our control group, because it is the combination that the greenhouse prefers. Because the plants are all in the same environment, and being subjected to measurable amounts of certain stimuli, our experiment will be statistically sound.
The materials we will use are as follows:
1. 576 beans (provided by greenhouse)
2. 24 black plastic flats, divided into 24 compartments (provided by greenhouse)
3. Water (all three types provided by greenhouse)
4. 80 lbs. Organic Topsoil (obtained at ACE Hardware)
5. 40 lbs. Composted Manure (obtained at ACE Hardware)
6. Greenhouse soil mixture
7. 2 Watering pitchers (provided by greenhouse)
We have set up several measuring techniques to determine which set up yields the best crop. The first is measuring the height of the plant. The height (in cm) is from the soil level to the highest point on the plant. The second measurement is the stem diameter (in mm) taken at the thickest point. We are also monitoring the germination rates of the seeds, by recording the number of plants each flat produces. We are also counting the number of leaves each produces. Later measurements will include number and size of seedpods, but this is a while off. Data will be recorded on the following form.
Height Stem Diameter # Plants
Key: G=greenhouse soil, O=organic soil
T=tap water, D=distilled water, C=chemical water
1=less water, 2=reg. Water, 3=more water, L=less light
We will have each student from the class go in one time and fill out a data sheet as their role in our project. We will take measurements every other day.
Sep. 20-28- Research and gather ideas
Sep.29- Post lab proposal
Oct. 5- Plant Beans
Oct. 9- Begin collecting data
Oct. 19- Lab Packet due
Nov. 14- Present to class
Nov. 21- Finish collection of data
Dec. 4- Finish up conclusions
Dec. 7- Final Lab Due
Organic Farming, Seeking the Mainstream. Feder, J. Barnaby
New York Times. April 2000. front page, business section
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