Final 3 Organic vs. Chemical Fertilizers

This topic submitted by Tami, Noelle, Dani, and Mike (, at 1:48 pm on 12/10/01. Additions were last made on Friday, January 31, 2003. Section: Cummins


In our study we will be conducting a test with chemical and organic fertlizers. We hope to find out which fertilizer is better for plant growth and which fertilizer is better for the soil/environment. We feel this study plays a large role in the present ever-changing ecosystem because of the widespread use of fertilizer in today's society. Not only is fertilzer used for large crop farms, but also for the smaller private gardens.

These are the questions we will be researching:
1. Which plant will grow faster? The plant that contains the
chemical fertilizer, organic fertilizer, or no fertilizer.
2. Which plant will produce more beans?
3. Which plant grows taller?
4. Which plant seems healthier (greener, produces more beans,
healthier leaves)?
5.Which fertilizer is better at producing food for humans?
6.Which is a fertilizer for farming crops?


For our first hypothesis, we predict that the chemical fertilizer will have a more positive benefit to the plant than organic or no fertilizer, but have a more damaging effect to the environment. For our second hypothesis, we predict that the chemical fertilizer will produce a healthier bean plant.
We plan to determine which plant will be a better producing bean plant. We also hope to determine if chemical fertilizer, organic fertilizer or no fertilizer is better for the plant. We know we wanted to do a project that allowed us to use the green house. Tami Boyer, having worked in landscaping company over the summer, came up with idea of testing fertilizers. We decided to a research project on fertilizers because we wanted to find out the damaging effects fertilizers have on the environment. After deciding to do the project,we wanted to find out which find our fertilizer would produce and not have severe damaging effects on the environment.

Relevance of Research:

After scouring the Internet we found that a number of other people have done comparisons between chemical and organic fertilizers; however, most of these comparisons have been done concerning lawn care and personal plant growth. The results from our experiment will hopefully reflect a larger scale of plant growth and cultivation, say in a farming community. Additionally, as on the site, many of these comparisons do not even give a clear answer as to which type of fertilizer would be more beneficial to the plant and the environment. This site in particular said that the effect of chemical fertilizer on the PH level of the soil was low. However, even if the effect was small it might cause problems in a large agricultural community. In addition, runoffs from excess chemicals could cause water problems. However, the book Nitrates: An Environmental Assessment by the Panel on Nitrates of the Coordinating Committee for Scientific and Technical Assessments of Environmental Pollutants says “Where watershed terrain and precipitation patterns make it feasible to contain runoff, storage and treatment of nutrient-enriched effluents from agricultural lands may be a viable control strategy.” One paper that we found contradicted our hypothesis by saying “the results of the two years organic farming trials at Chepkoilel Campus Farm reported in this paper show that high vegetable yields can be obtained through the use of organic manure in the subsequent years apparently because of the residual nutrients. This has been shown to be cheaper than the application of chemical fertilizers (“Organic Farming for Sustainable Agricultural Production. A Brief Theoretical Review and Preliminary Empirical Evidence”, Dima, S.J)” We believe that this case does not necessarily mean that organic fertilizers are more effective than chemical fertilizers, all that the article states is that organic fertilizers can produce high yields for cheaper than chemical fertilizers. We hope to show that chemical fertilizers are more effective and will produce a larger plant with more beans. A lab group from last year did a different experiment with bean plants. The Bean Daddies, as they were called, experimented with chemical and organic soil and different types of water. Their results showed that organically grown beans are not only healthier and produce more leaves but they require less water. Also, according to the book Organic Materials and Soil Productivity by W. Flaig, “It is of agricultural significance in those favored localities where animal husbandry is closely associated with crop production. Waste or accumulation of manure occurs in those areas where this relation does not exist.” If we get similar results to the Bean Daddies’ and find that organic fertilizers yield a better crop than chemical fertilizers then hopefully people will want to put this manure to use instead of letting it go to waste. However, if this is not true then our hypothesis will be proven correct and chemical fertilizers will be the better of the two. If our hypothesis is correct and chemical fertilizers are better than organic fertilizers we can still put organic fertilizers to good use by mixing the two together. In the article “Rice-wheat cropping system: assessment of sustainability under green manuring and chemical fertilizer inputs” by R.L. Yadav it is said that “Results indicated that partial substitution of fertilizer NPK with Sesbania green leaf manuring in rice was as good as 100% NPK through chemical fertilizers, and at certain locations improved sustainability.”
Our project has pertinence, on a potentially global scale, to farming and agricultural efficiency and health. The information that we will gather by the end of the project will prove the effectiveness of a popular chemical fertilizer and a popular organic fertilizer in the healthiness and size of bean plants. We will also learn from the information that we plan to gather the effect that each of these fertilizers will have on the soil and the surrounding environment. Tests on PH levels of the soil will be done in order to test the practicality of reusing the soil many times. This would reveal whether chemical fertilizers or organic fertilizers are more fit for continuous planting in farming communities. Another factor to be taken into account is the effect that the chemicals will have if they run off into water resources and the effect that these chemicals will have on the population that draws from these resources. Whichever fertilizer is better for the environment will mean fewer droughts and a consistency in crop totals. In addition, the overall healthiness and production of plants will have an effect in deciding which fertilizer is better for the environment. These two factors, healthiness of the plant and effect of the fertilizer on the environment, will have a significant bearing on deciding what type of fertilizer will be more effective for use in the ecosystem. However, the results from this lab will only make known the effectiveness of these fertilizers on bean plants. Nevertheless, the results of this experiment could still hold importance in the agricultural community, as beans are a common and significant resource.

Materials and Methods

The experiment will take place inside the greenhouse. A partially shaded spot was selected as the testing location. Three flats containing 24 plants each will be placed in this location. Each flat will contain the same exact kind of beans as well as the same type of potting soil. Each bean plant will be given a number. Flat A will be the control group where no fertilizer will be used. Bean one through 24 will be part of this flat. Flat B will contain chemical fertilizer (plants 25 though 48) while flat C will be exposed to organic fertilizer (plants 49 though 50). Miracle Grow will be the chemical fertilizer that will be used. It is a metro mix 360 series and contains horticultural vermiculite, Canadian sphagnum, beat moss, processed bark ash, and washed sand Each flat will be watered on a daily base with distilled water. The organic fertilizer simply consists of horse manure. After the plants have been potted a time period of two to three weeks will be allotted before any fertilizer will be added. After this time has passed, equal amounts of the corresponding fertilizer will be administered at the same time to flat B and C. The plants will be placed into larger containers in order to ensure there will be no constriction of growth. On this day the plants will be observed for the first time. The height (in millimeters), width (in millimeters), health, color, and bean count of each plant will be observed and recorded. The health will be rated on a scale from one to seven; seven being the healthiest, one the weakest. After this point the plants will be visited weekly and the previous observations will be recorded again. This process will continue until a conclusion has been reached and the experiment is complete. At the end of the experiment the pH level of the soil in each flat will be tested to determine the affect the fertilizers had on the soil. This experiment is statistically sound because enough specimens have been planted in order to achieve an accurate result. In addition, the use of control group will enable one to see if the fertilizer is truly having an affect. The class will be involved in the rating of the plants’ health as well as other observations. These observations can be objective and it is good to get various opinions. In addition the class will not be told which flat contains which fertilizer and therefore will be asked to speculate which flat is which forming a hypothesis of their own. As a result members of the class will hopefully be intrigued and want to view the beans’ progress to see if their assumptions were correct. This experiment provides a hands on method way to learn.

Here is our first Datasheet


The bean plants continued to grow at a steady pace until they peeked at week C. This was when the plants were observed as being the healthiest. Over the whole time span the control group was seen as being the healthiest. The chemical plants remained the tallest, while the organic were the shortest. This proved to be important because there was a significant statistical difference (.0001). It must be noted that there is a human error to be found. For the height of the plants decreased after week C. This may mean that the plants were not accurately measured, which would lead one to conclude that this statistical difference is of no value. The chemical plants also yielded the largest average amount of beans per plant, .75. However, there was no significant difference to be found (.621), which suggests that the amount of beans wasn’t truly dependent on the type of fertilizer used. This also held true regarding the weight of the beans. A p- value of .4598 states that even though the beans on the chemical plants had a greater mass, the difference wasn’t great enough to prove anything. However, just from taking a glance at the plants, one could tell the chemical beans were the largest. From these results it can be concluded that there was no difference great enough to substantially prove that one fertilizer is better than another. By the finial week the bean plants were beginning to die. They had matured and produced the crop. They had no further reason to live. The beans were shriveling up, and the plants were wilting as well as losing their leaves. However, they did much better than we had expected going into the project. Initially we didn’t even expect to see beans, so we were very excited about the results. The data collected was best interpreted via the bar graphs that follow:

. As you can see in this graph, chemical did indeed have the tallest plants. Control was right there with chemical, where as the organic seemed to lag behind. There was definitely a difference in the height of the plants, however not enough difference to be significant.

In this graph we compared the weight of the beans to the treatment used. Chemical yielded the most weight in crop production. This is often times what farmers look for. This study of the weight could in fact alter the methods of many farmers around the world. However, a lot of background studies we researched had also yielded the same results.

This graph shows the health of the beans according to treatment and time. Surprisingly the control proved to be the healthiest consistently with time. We had hypothesized that the chemical would not only be the better producing fertilizer, but also create the healthier plant. However, as you can see, chemical was second in line next to the control, which had not fertilizer at all!

In this graph we compared the number of beans to the treatment. Chemical produced the most beans. Organic and Control were very close. These results did not yield any significant difference either.

Also be sure to check out our power point to see actual pictures of our beans!!

Here is our Powerpoint

Results: Discussion and Conclusions

When we were looking for background information for our project we came across articles that supported and contradicted our hypothesis. In the end our data showed that our hypothesis proved to be correct. The plants that were fertilized with chemical fertilizer did grow healthier and produced more bean plants. We believe this happened because the chemical fertilizer we used is designed to grow bigger and better plants. However, our work contradicted the work of most of the studies we found. The Bean Daddies of last years NS class found that plants grown in organic soil grew not only healthier and produced more leaves, but required less water. We found that plants that have been fertilized with organic fertilizer were the least healthy when compared to plants that had been fertilized with chemical fertilizer or plants that were not fertilized at all. The organically fertilized plants did not grow as big or produces as many bean pods as did the no fertilized or chemically fertilized plants. Another experiment that we contradicted was the one done by Chepkoilel Campus Farm. There they found high vegetable yields through the use of chemical manure. Our findings show that the chemical fertilizer produces a healthier plant and more bean pods. As we presented our work to the class many different ideas were brought to our attention and this got us thinking. What if we had used fresh organic fertilizer instead of bagged organic fertilizer. Would that have made a big difference in our study? What if we mixed the bagged and fresh organic fertilizer? Would the mixture have been too strong for the plant or would the plant have grown stronger? We also thought of another experiment in which fresh organic fertilizer is compared to bagged organic fertilizer. Throughout our study we ran into some problems that, if further investigation should happen we would do differently. First of all we would start out planting our beans in a four- inch pot, that way they have room to grow. When the plants start to grow, tie the stems to sticks to ensure that they grow straight and tall. When measuring the plants make sure every group member uses the same ruler and knows the measuring procedure. When the plants are in the greenhouse, make sure they have their own space and are not invading another plant’s space. Put data into stat view each time you measure, so there is not so much data at the very end. We found that our data supported most of the background information we found. While conducting this study we came up with many new ideas for possible further developments in this study. All in all we learned a lot from this experiment and can use this knowledge to build from our discoveries.

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