Friday, February 28, 2014

An Experiment in Air

With the guidance provided by our Professor, Paratparao sir, a plant breeder; me and my friends Thukten Dolma and Duptho Wangmo of Final Year B.Sc.(Hons.) Horticulture conducted an experiment. Our motive was to find out the developmental and physiological changes associated with the root crops as it isn’t visible or evident, on account of the site of its development being concealed in the soil beneath. A brief summary of the methodology followed is as follows:

*      We made soil solution, filtered it using a funnel and filter paper. The filtrate (soil solution containing dissolved nutrients) was filled into a saline bottle with the help of a pipette. However, filling it with a syringe made the work much easier and faster. Then it was hung over the burette stand.

*      A bottle (a waste mineral water bottle) was cut from its neck and placed over the tripod in an inverted manner.
*      A field grown carrot plant in its initial root development stage was uprooted with all the roots intact, wrapped gently with a layer of cotton at its base. The root is allowed to hang freely via the bottle neck while the shoot remains above.
*      The solution was led to drip drop by drop in a manner similar to the patients being injected saline or glucose. The syringe tip was enclosed or placed in the cotton so as to ensure optimum absorption and uniform distribution of solution over the entire root surface.

The experiment wasn’t a success. The very next morning, we found the carrot leaves dropped abruptly down, with the leaves folded and wilted completely. The roots that lost its firmness and turgidity lay swinging in hopeless despair.

First experiment with Carrot(Top, from left to right: carrot seedling and soil solution)
(Bottom:Soil solution being filtered)
Assumption of the failure: The plant might not have been able to withstand transplantation shock as it was directly uprooted from the field and placed in the laboratory. The lack of proper physical support (soil) might have also been a factor that hindered its usual growth and development.

Lesson learnt from the failure: Experiments or many things may fail in life. But it should be borne in every individual’s mind that failures are the pillars of success and that every ‘No’ that we encounter in life is a step closer to the big ‘Yes’. So the nest thing we resorted to was raising the seedlings in situ (letting the seed to germinate in the laboratory) by placing it over moist cotton placed in Petri plates.
Our next attempt was to observe the development of maize seedling. The germinated maize seedling was transferred to the stand provided with the soil solution. Showered and nurtured by the gentle drips, the germinated maize seedling with radical was found to be adorned with the greenish plumule peeping its way up in a span of 24 hours.
The overall set up of the equipment (left)
Right: Maize and bottle gourd seeds placed in Petriplate for germination(top) and germinated maize seedlings.

It was so thrilling to witness the degree of curvature, the extent of elongation of stems, and the emergence and unfurling of lush leaves on a daily basis. The more luxuriant growth it put forth, the more enthusiastic and driven were we to render intensive care. A plant is a living entity, like anyone of us and an entity that emanates radiance of hope and ideologies.

Second experiment: Raising of maize seedlings.

A week of our absence from our hostel was counteracted by our luxuriant green plant drooping in gloom, the lush green hue wiped away by brown discoloration. To our melancholy, our much cared maize seedling gave its way unable to resist drought and hunger. This was attributed to the blockage of the syringe that supplied the soil solution by some sand particles. So a plant is like a baby that requires intensive and constant care. The moment they are left unattended is when their usual growth and development deteriorates.

Nevertheless, our quest to find something did not end with the failure of the second experiment either. Currently, we are working with the development of radish seedlings and we are hopeful that we will get to see the complete developmental stages of the plant, with particular reference to the root (tuber) development.

The experiment also ushered us with the knowledge that plants and any other high value crops can be raised with nutrient solution, be it vermiwash( solution prepared from vermin compost), solution prepared from farmyard manure and the like as a simple solution such as soil solution was supporting plant growth.
The result can be so rewarding with the use of Hoagland solution (solution for hydroponics), which encompasses all the essential nutrients for plant growth. However, the cost on the procurement of nutrients might pose a constraint in its wider acceptability and advancement.

The experiment was a hypothetical model of Aeroponics, science of growing plants in air or a system where roots are continuously or discontinuously kept in an environment saturated with fine drops of nutrient solution. It is a modification of or a leap forth of Hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water enriched with Hoagland solution without soil).

This technique can restore the crop production which necessitates the use of land where we can resort for multi-storied vertical gardening. It can be a profitable venture and a sustainable approach in meeting the requirements of the ever increasing feeding population. This is an apt method which can do wonders where the availability of land holdings remains static despite the geometric progression in the human population.
Our experiment at the Exhibition hall, in commemorating the national Science Day on 28th February throughout India.


  1. Systematically planned experiment, Apt Analysis for failures , apart from interest in Science trying to look the scientific component by right n zealous persons. Ofcoz under the guidance of a sincere commited teacher who nurtures scientific spirit in the young generation

  2. Thnak you sir for visiting my blog and dropping in your comment. In fact, the experiment was conducted out of my personal interest though it doesn't relate to our course curriculum. I would like to have suggestions for further improvement if any from sir.