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Investigating Seed Germination

Carolina Labsheets™

In these activities, students design an experiment to investigate factors that may affect seed germination.


Student Lab Sheet


Needed Materials*

radish seeds (159003)

rye grass seeds (159313)

potting soil (159705 or similar)

plastic cups (4 to 8 oz)

plastic spoons

permanent markers

paper towels

plastic buckets or other containers for moistening the potting soil


Optional Materials
AquaSafe Water Conditioner (671944) to treat tap water, rulers, and other measuring instruments as needed. Depending on the projects that students develop, you may have to add to the materials list.


Safety

Ensure that students understand and adhere to safe laboratory practices when performing any activity in the classroom or lab. Students should not put their fingers into their mouths during these activities. They should wash and dry their hands after each activity. Demonstrate the protocol for correctly using the instruments and materials necessary to complete the activities, and emphasize the importance of proper usage. Use personal protective equipment such as safety glasses or goggles, gloves, and aprons when appropriate. Model proper laboratory safety practices for your students and require them to adhere to all laboratory safety rules.


Procedures

Students can work in groups of two to four.

Have a class or small group brainstorming session on factors that can influence seed germination and seedling growth. Let the teams develop a question to investigate based on ideas generated.

After all investigations are complete, have students compare their results and construct a set of best practices for planting seeds to produce healthy seedlings.


Answer Key to Questions Asked on the Student LabSheet

The following is based on a student investigation of planting depth.

List below some factors you think may influence seed germination and seedling growth, and give a brief explanation of the expected influence.

Planting depth If planted too deep, seedlings will not be able to reach the surface and will die. If planted too near the surface they may dry out and not germinate.

Water If the soil is too dry, seeds may not be able to absorb enough water to germinate. If the soil is too wet, the seeds may rot.

Temperature If the soil is too cold, seeds may not germinate.

Weeds If there are too many weeds, seeds may germinate but the seedlings may be weak.

Fertilizer If seedlings do not have fertilizer, they may grow poorly. If there is too much fertilizer, the seedlings may be burned.

Light If there is not enough light, seedlings may grow poorly.

Choose a factor from your list and develop a question about seed germination that you can answer through experimentation.

The question we will investigate is Does planting depth affect how well seeds germinate?

State a hypothesis for your experiment. State your hypothesis in the form of if …, then … because (i.e., if this variable is changed in this way, it will produce this change for this reason). A hypothesis is not a guess; it is a predicted outcome based on prior knowledge.

If we plant seeds at different depths, the seeds planted deepest may germinate, but the seedlings will not reach the surface. There will be an optimal planting depth.


Experimental Procedure

We will plant radish seeds at different depths and record data on the number of seedlings that emerge above the soil level for each planting depth. Data will be displayed in a data table and as a histogram. Our research indicates that radish seeds germinate in 2 days under good conditions. On this basis, we plan to allow 10 days from planting to the end of our trial. Since radish is a small seed, we predict that the seeds will germinate best at a shallow planting depth.


Materials

radish seeds
potting soil
7-oz cups for planting seeds
rulers


Variables that we will control

number and type of seed planted
temperature
moisture
light
type of potting soil
size of planting container


Variable that we will change

Planting depth


Procedure

  1. Use point of scissors to make a hole for drainage in the bottoms of four plastic 7-oz cups. Label cups with date planted and planting depth.
  2. Fill cup 1 to a depth of 2 cm with moist potting soil. Scatter 25 radish seeds on the soil surface and fill the cup to a total depth of 8 cm with moist potting soil. Seeds are planted at a depth of 6 cm.
  3. Fill cup 2 to a depth of 4 cm with moist potting soil. Scatter 25 radish seeds on the soil surface and fill the cup to a total depth of 8 cm with moist potting soil. Seeds are planted at a depth of 4 cm.
  4. Fill cup 3 to a depth of 6 cm with moist potting soil. Scatter 25 radish seeds on the soil surface and fill the cup to a total depth of 8 cm with moist potting soil. Seeds are planted at a depth of 2 cm.
  5. Fill cup 4 to a depth of 8 cm with moist potting soil. Scatter 25 radish seeds on the soil surface. Seeds are planted at a depth of 0 cm.
  6. Set completed cups in tray under light bank. Check cups daily and water as needed.
  7. Ten days from planting, count the number of seedlings and record results in the Seedling Data Table. Graph Results

Seedling Data Table

Planting Depth 0 cm 2 cm 4 cm 6 cm
Number of Seedlings 8 24 0 0



Student Lab Sheet



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