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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

even more experiment ideas

More Agricultural Science Fair Project Ideas

While agriculture is often not a formal division for science fairs, it certainly fits in many of the categories.

Botany...

Which way is up?

Many seeds and bulbs have a definite top and bottom. What happens if you plant them upside down or sideways? Will the seeds still grow; will it take longer for leaves to start showing up?

What happens if you change a seed’s direction once it starts to sprout? Many seeds like beans can be sprouted in moist cotton or paper towels. What happens if you turn the seed 90 or 180 degrees from right side up every few days after it sprouts?

You can take it a step further by using a record player turntable to simulate changing gravity’s pull on seeds. You’ll want to know more about the chemical auxin, which affects where roots and stems grow.

Roots on Restriction (Would that be grounded?)

Does the amount of room a plant has for roots make a difference in how big a plant will grow, regardless of how much fertilizer the plant is given? Plant seeds in a variety of different-sized containers using vermiculite or other soil-less material, so you will be able to give each plant a measured amount of fertilizer. Or plant a number of plants in the same size containers and vary the amount of fertilizer and see what happens. Be sure to use small enough containers so that root growth really will be constricted.

Zoology...

Can different colors and types of cloth attract or repel insects from plants? Plant a number of groups of the same type of plant near each other, but far enough apart to surround each set with several feet of fabric. Or select several of the same kind of bush in one yard. You want to use the same type of plant in the same place, so all of the plants will have the same potential for insect damage.

Surround each group of plants with a different color fabric. Be sure water can penetrate the fabrics. At set intervals, record all the insects you can find on each plants and any signs of insect damage on the plant. It is a good idea to check reference sources for common insect problems of the type of plants you are using.

Medicine and Health (Nutrition)...

Are all apples equally sweet? As apples ripen, the starch in the fruit changes to sugar, making the fruit sweet. What kind of sweet differences are there between apple varieties or individual apples of the same type?

Starch levels in apples can be measured by dipping a portion of the apple into an iodine solution. The starch reacts with the iodine solution to produce a blue-black color in a pattern that is characteristic for each variety of apple. For example, Red Delicious apples lose starch in a fairly even ring, while Golden Delicious apples have an uneven pattern.


You can find reference standards for starch iodine patterns for Macintosh, Red Delicious, Empire, and Spartan apple varieties on the Internet.

It is best to test fresh apples that have not been stored, so this experiment is best done in the fall. Another way to use this test is to track apple ripening from a single tree over the harvest season to pinpoint the best time to harvest that tree’s apples.

Environmental Science...

Is there chemical contamination in your streams and creeks? One way to test for such contamination is with a bioassay.

Of all the possible water-quality bioassay organisms, lettuce might be one of the last you would think of. Lettuce doesn't live in water, so why use it to test water quality? The reason is lettuce bioassays are inexpensive, easy to do, and the seeds are pretty sensitive to some types of contaminants in water, including heavy metals, pesticides and other organic toxins. Although any variety of lettuce may do, Lactuca sativa Buttercrunch is the standard variety recommended for bioassays by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

You might try taking a series of samples along one stream or compare streams near industry to water running though agricultural areas.

Directions for conducting experiments can be found at: Lettuce Bioassay.

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Last Modified: 2/14/2011
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