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Effects of mineral deficiencies in plants

Plants need to build the complex molecules they need from minerals (elements
and simple compounds), which they get from the soil. If they fail to obtain these
minerals which are essential for their cellular processes and growth, they will be
stunted and they could die as a result of it. Any plant could be used to experiment
mineral deficiencies, as all plants require these minerals to grow properly. In this
experiment, mung beans were used to test the mineral deficiencies as they are
readily available and are not as fragile as other plants that could have been used.
Mung beans are a small plant species that are part of the legume family, they are
native to the Indian subcontinent and are grown in hot, dry regions (MDidea,
2014). Being a tropical crop Mung Beans flourish better in optimum warm
temperatures of around 30-35 degrees celsius which makes them ideal to use in
the Malaysian climate (Akroyd and Doughty, 1982).

All plants need enough minerals to grow and function properly. The most
important ones that are essential for healthy plant life are Calcium, Magnesium
and Nitrogen in the form of nitrate ions.Calcium is needed by plants to strengthen
cell wall structure as it forms calcium pectate compounds which gives cell walls
stability and binds cells together. Calcium deficiency shows in soft, dead, necrotic
tissue at rapidly growing areas such as at the tips of leaves, Calcium deficiency
also makes the plants more likely to wilt. Magnesium is the main element used in
the making of chlorophyll and without it the plant will not be able to
photosynthesize and make starch for growth and storage. Nitrate ions are
essential for growth and making of chlorophyll and without it plants will have
stunted growth and small discoloured leaves.

The independent variable in this experiment will be the addition of the different
compounds to the specific plants. The controlled variable will be the amount of
water added to each beaker will remain the same for all plants and the dependent
variable will be the height of the shoots of the plants and will be measured to
calculate percentage increase and make conclusions. Another dependent
variable to be measured would be the dry mass (Nuffield Foundation, 2011) of the
plants at the end to calculate the growth and percentage increase of that too.

Aim: to find out the minerals essential for healthy plant growth and the effects of
deficiency of these minerals and the roles they play in the growth of plants

Hypothesis: the plants grown with all the minerals will be the healthiest and have
the highest percentage increase, the other plants will either have stunted growth
or die within 2 weeks as a result of lack of minerals essential for plant growth. It is
predicted that the plants lacking magnesium will have yellow leaves, as

chlorophyll will not be produced properly, the plants lacking calcium will wilt and
have death of terminal buds and root tips as calcium is needed in the formation of
cell walls and membranes. Lastly the plants lacking nitrate ions will be thin with
smaller pale yellow leaves because nitrate ions are needed to build proteins.
Plan:
1. Roll up a paper towel and fit into a large beaker
2. Fill beaker with 15 cm3 of normal water (not distilled water)
3. Draw a line around the beaker and place 4 mung beans in 4 different
places equal distances from each other between the moist paper towel
and wall of each beaker
4. Repeat steps 1-3 for 5 different beakers
5. Cover the beakers with aluminium foil and make 15 holes on the sheet
with a pencil
6. Place beakers in a location with sufficient exposure to sunlight
7. Check on plants daily. Discard seeds that have turned brown. Use those
that have grown shoots and roots
8. Select seeds with roots of about the same length to be used in the
experiment
9. Add the 5cm3 of one of the following nutrients to each different beaker
(including 10cm3 of distilled water) once every 3 days :

Nitrate

Nitrate

Calcium

Nitrate

Tap Water

Calcium Magnesium Magnesium Calcium

Distilled Water
(Control)

Magnesium

10. Fill one beaker with only distilled water in it, to be used as a control for the
experiment
because distilled water has no minerals in it.
10. Record the observations and results obtained in the tables below

Nutrients
Used/

Nitrate

Nitrate

Calcium

Nitrate

Tap

Distilled

Observation
s

Calciu
m

Magnesiu
m

Magnesiu
m

Calcium

Water

Magnesiu
m

Week 1

Plants
appear
to be
healthy
with
healthy
leaves
and
stems

Plant is
beginning
to wilt and
have weak
stems

Plants
appear to
be healthy
with
healthy
leaves
and stems

Leaves
appear
normal,
stems
appear
weak and
unstable

Water
(Control
)

Plants
have
starte
d to
wilt
and
have
very
weak
stems

Plants
have
almost
died,
leaves
have
fallen
and
shoots
appear
very
weak

Week 2

Week 3

Risk Assessment and Safety : There weren't many safety precautions needed to
be ensured while doing this experiment as no harmful/corrosive chemicals were
used. The only safety precaution to be taken was to make sure that the beakers
were placed far from the edges of the table and to treat the beakers with care.
This is because beakers that fall will break and could cause injuries to people that
are in the way or unaware of the broken glass.

Ethics : There were no ethical issues with this experiment as it was only mung
beans that were being grown. Mung beans are abundant in nature and do not
feel pain as they do not have a central nervous system.

Conclusion : The experiment could not be completed properly as the plants died
after a month and no more results could be taken. The dry masses of the plants
could not be measured either as the beakers started to get mouldy and that
would affect the readings of the masses taken as the mass would include the

mould on the plants as well. However it is know that the plants that had no
minerals and only distilled water wouldve died first as they did not get any
minerals needed for growth. The plants with tap water wouldve died soon after
as they did not get any minerals either apart from the small percentage that
mightve been in the tap water. The plants that had no calcium wouldve been
wilting and would not be straight as the would not have proper cell walls due to
no calcium pectate being produced with the lack of calcium ions. The plants with
mineral deficiency would have yellow leaves as magnesium ions are needed for
production of chlorophyll and without chlorophyll they would not be able to
photosynthesise and produce glucose for growth and other processes properly.
As a result of this they would have stunted growth and would not survive for very
long. The plants with nitrate deficiency would not be able to make proteins or
chlorophyll properly and would have small discoloured leaved and stunted growth
as well. The plants with nitrate, magnesium and calcium ions would grow very
well as they had all the minerals essential for proper growth and processes of the
plant.

Evaluation : Plants need all essential ions (nitrate, calcium and magnesium) for
healthy growth and survival and the plants with deficiencies in any of these would
have stunted growth and would be unhealthy and not live for very long. I think
that for this practical the results were accurate because the few results obtained
were close to the true values and proved the hypothesis was correct. The
experiment was precise because all the plants that were put in beakers toghether
had the same results in terms of growth and malnutrition. It was a valid
experiment because it can surely be repeated anywhere as long as the
conditions are kept the same (must be right temperature and humidity for plants
to grow properly). Overall I think the experiment was valid because it was
accurate, precise and reliable which means its validity is confirmed.

Bibliography :
http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-biology/investigating-effect-mineralsplant-growth
http://www.healthaliciousness.com/blog/mungo-beans-vs-mung-beans.php
http://www.mdidea.com/products/proper/proper05402.html