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Science Project: How Does Salt Affect Seed Germination?

Updated on June 11, 2016
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VirginiaLynne is an educator and mom of 5. Her Science Fair articles are based on her experience helping her children do their projects.

Excellent Junior High Project

This is the research plan my daughter used for her Junior High Project. She won first place at our Regional Contest and competed at State. The reason this simple project did so well is that she was able to explain how important it is for farmers to be able to determine when the salt concentration in soil hurts the germination of plants.

Another child in our family did a variation of this project in 5th grade for her school project, so I know that this experiment also works with younger children, but be sure that your child has at least one to two weeks time for the experimental process.

Salinity and Crops Science

The amount of salt in soil is a major problem for growers.
The amount of salt in soil is a major problem for growers. | Source

Question

How much teaspoons or portions of teaspoons, of salt dissolved in a cup of water, can be withstood by a 100 germinating radish seeds if 1 tablespoon of the salt water in the cup is added at a time in a Ziplock Bag with a coffee filter to hold the water?

Hypothesis

Hypothesis: The more salt in the water, the fewer seeds will germinate. The radish seeds will not germinate at all in a solution with more than 3 teaspoons of salt in 8 oz of water.

Soil With Too Much Salt

When soil has too much salt, crops won't grow well.  This experiment studies how salt affects seed germination.
When soil has too much salt, crops won't grow well. This experiment studies how salt affects seed germination. | Source

Materials

  1. 10 Ziplock Bags
  2. 1000 radish seeds
  3. 10 coffee filters
  4. tap water (tap water is the control)
  5. distilled water
  6. table salt
  7. teaspoon
  8. 10 cups
  9. 8 oz. measuring cup

Radish Seeds in Salt Water
Radish Seeds in Salt Water | Source
Radish Seeds Germinating in Bag
Radish Seeds Germinating in Bag | Source

Procedures

Take ten separate cups. Label them A through J. Fill them as follows:

  1. Solution A: 8 oz. tap water
  2. Solution B: 8 oz distilled water
  3. Solution C: 8 oz distilled water with ½ teaspoon of table salt. Stir to dissolve salt.
  4. Solution D: 8 oz. distilled water with 1 teaspoon of table salt. Stir to dissolve salt.
  5. Solution E. 8 oz. distilled water with 1 ½ teaspoons of table salt. Stir to dissolve salt.
  6. Solution F. 8 oz distilled water with 2 teaspoons of table salt. Stir to dissolve.
  7. Solution G. 8 oz. distilled water with 2 ½ teaspoons of table salt. Stir to dissolve.
  8. Solution H. 8 oz. distilled water with 3 teaspoons of table salt. Stir to dissolve.
  9. Solution I: 8 oz. distilled water with 3 ½ teaspoons of table salt. Stir to dissolve.
  10. Solution J: 8 oz. distilled water with 4 teaspoons of table salt. Stir to dissolve.

2. Place the 10 Ziplock Bags down on the counter at room temperature. Label the top and bottom of each plate with the letter of the solution to be used in each one (A through J).

3. Unzip the bags and put a coffee filter in each one.

4.. Pour one tablespoon of each solution onto the filter in the bag with the same label, making sure it soaks the whole coffee filter.

5. Divide the 1000 seeds into groups of 100. Put 100 seeds on the filter of each Bag. Make sure the seeds are scattered evenly over the filter.

6. Zip up the Bags. Place all 10 dishes at room temperature out of direct sunlight (seeds don't need light to germinate and light can cause fungus to grow).

7. Observe the dishes daily and record number of seeds that have germinated in each dish and any other changes in the seeds.

8. Record results in journal.

Safety

Safety: You need goggles for the salt water splashing in your eyes, and gloves so you do not transfer bacteria to the seeds.

How Salt Accumulation Affects Crops

Farmers sometimes flood their fields to leech out the salt that accumulates.  That takes a lot of water.
Farmers sometimes flood their fields to leech out the salt that accumulates. That takes a lot of water. | Source

Results

Abstract of Experiment and Results: The problem was to determine the effect of salt water on germinating radish seeds, and also to determine if there was a maximum concentration that could be tolerated.

To do this, coffee filters were wet with 1 tablespoon of salt water from cups that increased in concentration by 1/2 teaspoon of salt in each cup of 8 oz. of water. The filters were then placed in the plastic bags. The 50 seeds were then placed on top of the coffee filters, inside the bag. The seeds that germinated were counted and charted. Tap and distilled water without salt were used as controls.

The results were that the germination was 100% with the controls, tap and distilled water. On the groups exposed to salt water, the germination decreased as the salt concentration increased, and no germination occurred at amounts of 1.5 tsp. of salt or higher. This supported the hypothesis, which was, "The more salt in the water, the fewer seeds will germinate."

This information could help gardeners and farmers to know when saline reaches dangerous levels for radish seeds.

Economic Effects on Agriculture of Salinity in Water in California

Science Fair Experiment Tips

One Thing We Learned: Our first version of the experiment had none of the seeds germinating! So we had to re-do the experiment with less salt in the water. If you have time, it helps to do a pre-test of an experiment.

However, scientists are always honest. If your experiment doesn't work out but you did everything you said you would do, you should still publish your results exactly. What you can put in your conclusion is how you would alter the experiment next time. We had time to re-do our experimental design and try again, which is exactly what my husband does when his experiments don't work the first time!

Variations of Project

Variation using Plants: You can do a variation on this project by watering plants with water with different concentrations of salt to see how salt water affects the growth of plants. As the coordinator of an elementary science fair, I've seen students do lots of plant watering experiments using different kinds of water, but I've never seen a salt experiment.

What Grade Level of Science Project are you doing?

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    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 7 weeks ago from United States

      Hi Brianna! This is an easy experiment to do that is actually about a very important problem that we need to solve. I hope you enjoy doing this and learn something about the environment and how we need to protect it.

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      Brianna Brown 7 weeks ago

      I was looking all over for a project like this one. I never new that I was going to find it I love it thank you!!!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      Glad you like it Chelsea. One of my younger daughters just did a version of this one for her science fair project in 6th grade. It is easy but has a very important point. Right now in California they have a terrible drought. One of the problems with the fields in California is that they have a lot of salt in them. One of the ways they get rid of the salt is to flood the fields with water to let the salt leech out. Of course they can't do that when they don't get enough water. So finding out about how salt inhibits germination and growth is important.

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      chelsea 2 years ago

      I love this experiment

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      Aaliyah--I'm not sure what you mean by dependent and independent variables. The variable in this project is the amount of salt in the water. Everything else is constant. The plain tap water is the control.

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      Aaliyah 2 years ago

      Please tell me what are the dependent and independent variables

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 3 years ago from United States

      Ladruzzi--Check the filters daily. Only add water if they are getting dry. You want them damp and not wet. Two weeks is just about right.

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      landruzzi 3 years ago

      Sounds like a great experiment. My question is, do we dampen the filters on a daily basis or skip a day? I wasn't sure how long you would continue this project as well. Is it about a two week time frame of observing the seeds? Thank You.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 3 years ago from United States

      Yash, If you are looking for an easy way to do it, you might want to have several bar graphs representing the progression of days with the numbers of germinated seeds indicated by different bars under the different salt concentrations.

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      Yash 3 years ago

      Can you help me make a rough graph of seed germinated vs. salt conc. ?

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      That 4 years ago

      Awesome I'm so doing this

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      Nova--thanks so much for telling me! I will pass this along to my daughter, she will be excited to hear about it. My son had his science fair at region yesterday and won first in his category--he gets to go on to state again now. I'm so glad that we have competitions which keep kids interested in science!

    • profile image

      Nova 5 years ago

      Hi,

      My daughter did the experiment about salt n seeds ,she followed some of your ideas and she won first place in her science fair this yr in 2nd grd. Thank you so much, keep posting such inspiring experiments.good job.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      Great! I'd love to have you come back and share how it worked for you. My daughter got 1st place in her regional for this project and also went to state.

    • learnlovelive profile image

      learnlovelive 5 years ago from U.S.

      No problem, Virginia. I want to thank you for being so professional in your demonstration. The scientific method is so important, people don't even understand. And, "You Rock!" was both a pun and a double entendre. Your Hub was about salt, hence the rock pun and you posted a comment about the effects of music on plants. This is awesome, hence the part about you rocking...and you were actually talking about rocking out with the plants. That rocks, quite literally. Keep up the good work, your approach is well-appreciated and you are good at demonstrating thorough processes.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image
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      Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stoping by learnlovelive! Hey keithlinpke--I've seen that one too! Or an experiment where people put some plants in a room with rock music, and other plants with classical. Interesting!

    • keithlipke profile image

      keithlipke 5 years ago from Fort Wayne, Indiana

      My science project was talking to plants :)

    • learnlovelive profile image

      learnlovelive 5 years ago from U.S.

      Awesome. You rock.

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