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Effects of Saline-Water on Plant Growth

Siddharth Ray Abstract: In this experiment, we explore if the addition of salt to water has any affects

to the growth of plants. The effects of the salinity of water were tested on sweet basil plants over a course of 14 days and two trials. On one group, the plants were watered with regular tap water, while the other group had 1.5 teaspoons of salt added to one liter of water. The control group plants were on average 112% larger in height in comparison to the height of the experimental group plants. This data is supported by data from numerous similar experiments that have been conducted over the years. The large height differential occurs due to osmosis and as a result, the dehydration of the plant cells. This data thus supports the hypothesis that salt water hinders the growth of plants, and it is imperative that farmers use non-saline water to water their plants. Introduction: Salinity of water is an authentic problem that many farmers face while

farming. Most farmers in developed, first world countries are able to farm and grow

their plants with clean and pure water. Farmers in developing nations, however, often have to grow their crops in water that is contaminated, often with bacteria and salt. Many of these famers blame their second-rate crops on the cleanliness of the water. According to Tara Patel of Bloomberg, Water pollution from agriculture is

costing billions of dollars a year and is set to rise as farmers race to increase food production. At this rate, governments will be spending colossal amounts of money in order to clean the waters that the farmers use to grow their crops. If contaminated water was used for crops, then the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that risk of developing a foodborne illness will increase, and that illnesses will be spread through water within the United States [such as] E. coli, Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Toxoplasma, norovirus, and hepatitis A virus. Therefore, it is important to understand if contamination of water affects the crop growth, and if so, to what degree. Materials and Methods: I proposed an experiment that will determine if the salinity of water affects

the growth of a plant, and if so, to what degree. If I found that the salinity of the water makes the plant grow at a slower rate, then that proves that the second-rate crops produced by farmers in developing nations are in fact inferior due to the water that is given to the plants.

The materials that were needed are not difficult to obtain. We found seeds of

the same plant (sweet basil), nutrient-enriched soil and two cartons that had 10 soil cups in each carton. The plants were grown in the sunroom of my house, an area with a lot of light and high temperatures. Four seeds were placed in each soil cup, and thus 40 seeds in each carton.

One carton was used as the control group, and those plants were watered with tap water. The other carton was used as the experimental group, and the plants in the experimental group were watered with a saline solution of 1.5 teaspoons of salt per liter of tap water. The only independent variable that was tested in this experiment was the salinity of the water. We observed the plant growth for two weeks, collecting quantitative data (specifically, the height of the sweet basil plants after two weeks). We will conduct two trials of this experiment in order to collect accurate and precise data that reflects the effects of salt on plant growth.

Results After conducting this experiment analyzing the data, I was able to find

extremely interesting statistical and graphical trends. The following four graphs are graphs of the plant lengths of the two trials, followed by a graph for the average height of the plants for each group and the number of non-germinated seeds:

3.5 Heightof Plant (cm.) 3 2 1 0 2.5 1.5 0.5

Height of Plants in Trial One

Control Group 1 Experimental Group 1

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Plant Number

Figure 1, showing the height of plants in Trial One

4 3.5 Plant Height (cm) 3

Height of Plants in Trial Two

Control Group 2

2.5 2

1.5 1

Experimental Group 2

0.5 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Plant Number

Figure 2, showing the height of the plants in Trial two Figure 3, showing the number of non- germinated seeds in each group

Number of Non-Germinated Seeds

30 25 Number 20 15 10 5 0 Control 1 Experimental 1 Control 2 Experimental 2 Trial And Group

Average Height of Plants

Height of Plants (cm.) 2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 Control 1 Experimental 1 Control 2 Experimental 2

Figure 4, showing the average height of the plants in each group

Trial and Group

As seen clearly on Figures 1 and 2, the control groups for both trials had higher plant heights in the control groups, which contained no salt, than in the saline- experimental group. Not only can this seen visually, but statistically as well. The average height of the control group in trial one was 1.945 centimeters, compared to an average of 0.9675 centimeters for the experimental group. Similarly, the average height of the control group plants in trial two was 1.7925 centimeters, while the average height of the experimental group plants was 0.805 centimeters. In total, the overall average height of the control group was 1.86875 centimeters, while the overall average height of the experimental group plants was 0.88625. All these statistics prove that the control group plants generally speaking had a higher height than the experimental group plants. Not only does the average height of the control group plants exceed the

average height of the experimental group plants, but also more plants germinated in the control group conditions compared to the experimental group conditions. The control group for trials one and two had 9 and 17 seeds that did not germinate, respectively, while the experimental group had 24 and 26 non-germinated seeds. On

average the control group had 13 seeds that did not germinate, and the experimental group had 25 seeds that did not germinate. Thus, nearly twice as many seeds in the experimental group did not germinate compared to the control group! Discussion: The effect of salt on the growth of water has been well documented in

numerous experiments, and the data collected as a result of this experiment verifies the statistical data that was collected during other experiments. Lachli and Grattan (2007) also reported that salt added into water readily stunts the growth of the shoot of a plant. Similarly, H. Ghadiri (2005) stated that when water from the Caspian Sea (which contains large amounts of salt deposits) was added to plants with elongated stems, the stem growth was stunted greatly. The results of these labs can be explained due to osmosis. The osmotic

potential, as stated by A. Sheldon (2004) is affected greatly when a plant cell is placed in a hypertonic solution, such as salt-water. During osmosis, water moves from a more concentrated gradient to a less concentrated gradient in order to create equal concentration gradients. When using regular water, the concentration gradient within the cell is very similar to the concentration gradient outside the cell. Therefore, the plant cell is able to retain the pure water within the cell and the overall plant will have a high photosynthetic rate. When salt water is given to the plants, the plant cell is put in a hypertonic

solution, as the concentration of pure water is higher within the cell than outside the

cell. Thus, the pure water rushes out of the cell in order to equalize the concentration gradients. This can cause the plant cell to dehydrate and die. Thus, fewer cells are able to undergo photosynthesis, and the plant grows at a far slower rate than compared to a plant watered with pure water. Conclusion: The goal of this experiment was to determine whether salt had an affect on

plant growth, and if it did, how did it affect plant growth. The data collected showed that the average height of the plants in the control groups exceeded the average height of plants in the experimental groups. Therefore, the salt-water had a definite negative impact on the growth of the plants, and generally speaking, we can conclude that salt hinders the growth of the plant significantly. It is imperative that farmers use non-saline water for all their crops, especially crops that are extremely dependent on water (such as rice and lettuce). If not, their crops could not grow to their full potentials or even due, which would affect consumers all over the world.

References: Ghadiri, H.; Dordipour, I.; Bybordi, M. & Malakourti, M. J. (2005). Potential use of Caspian Sea for Supplementary Irrigation in North Iran. Agricultural Water Management Lachli, A., and S. R. Grattan. "Plant Growth and Development Under Salinity Stress." University of California, 2007. Web. 2 June 2013. <http://redsalinidad.com.ar/assets/files/revisiones/lauchli%20grattan.pdf>. Patel, Tara. "Water Pollution From Farming Is Worsening, Costing Billions." Bloomberg. N.p., 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. Sheldon, Anna, Neal W. Menzies, H. B. So, and Ram Dalal. "Introduction." The Regional Institute. The Regional Institute Ltd., 2004. Web. 02 June 2013. <http://www.regional.org.au/au/asssi/supersoil2004/s6/poster/1523_sheldona.h tm>. "Water Contamination." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. < http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/other/agricultural/contamination.html>

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