Updated: Feb 23
I conducted a scientific research along side University Professor from UMASS Amherst and published my findings in the Fall Journal of Scientific Research Writing. I wanted to share my findings with you to inspire you in scientific research projects.
My Research Title:
To Determine Microbiome Effects on Legume Plant Growth in California
My research project surrounds determining the microbiome effects on legume plant (scientific name crotalaria juncea) growth. This is important since this information can be used for people who want to help their plants grow beyond normal expectations. The purpose of my research was to figure out the answer to the main prompt. There isn’t much info in my state about this specific subject and the type of soil I used so it may be useful for other researchers. The plant microbiome plays a major role in determining plant health and overall growth, it can also affect productivity. The plant microbiome has miniscule bacteria that can change these things. This information was crucial to my experiment because I could use it to come up with a hypothesis. The aim of this project is to answer the main question and determine how the microbiome can affect legume plant growth. I used legume plants specifically since they have a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria called rhizobia bacteria. This bacteria has been shown to effectively colonize root surfaces. This happens in the rhizosphere, which is a small area in soil where microorganisms have interactions with plant roots. The general methods for conducting the experiment were to plant legume plants, observe the root nodule formation, isolate the bacteria on it after sterilizing, and watch it grow for 2 days. My hypothesis was that the positive control would have the most bacteria and nodule turnout. The final results for the experiment showed how bacteria interacts with roots in a controlled setting, with sterilized roots.
My research project surrounds determining the microbiome effects on legume plant (scientific name crotalaria juncea) growth. The aim of this project is to answer the main question and determine how the microbiome can affect legume plant growth. The specific aim for this project was to collect soil from my house in Palo Alto, California. After getting the soil, the plan was to plant the legume seeds and observe the growth of these seeds in different types of soil. The root nodules were to be microscopically observed and written down in the e-lab notebook. Lastly, I followed the protocol to isolate rhizobia bacteria from the roots of the legume plants. The point of getting all of this data was to determine the answer to the main question: How does the microbiome affect legume plant growth?
I hypothesized that the backyard soil would end up with the least nodules and rhizobia, just because it was kind of normal soil with nothing special. The positive control will have the most rhizobia bacteria. This is because the soil had more nodules in it. The front yard/compost will have a decent amount of nodules and bacteria, but not the most because the soil was better for plant growth. I am focusing on the microbiome, and getting involved with microscopes and bacteria. I predicted that bacteria would help the plants grow and overall improve the health of the plant.
MATERIALS AND METHODS I USED :
For this project, the methodology for conducting research was to observe each of the pots and write down data in the e-lab notebook. The materials used were: Planting pots and trays, digging tools, spade and fork, soil/dirt, glass of water, wooden tweezer, legume seeds. First, I gathered soil from 2 different locations with different types of soil. I then planted legume plants in each of the pots of soil. I watered them for two weeks every other day and once the legume plants started to grow, I marked down all the information about my experiment such as the amount of water given per day, the amount of seeds planted, size of plants, etc. Throughout the experiment, I tracked the grown plants and in-progress plants, and microscopically observed the root nodules. I noted down how many root nodules were found at the root of the plant by using a microscope to zoom in on it. I also collected data about rhizobial bacteria isolated from root nodules. Lastly, I isolated the bacteria from the root nodules by using sterilized water and sodium hypochlorite. This information was used to determine the answer to the question.
The results for this experiment are included in the photos here. In figure one, you can see how I planted the legume seeds and their progress in growing. I watered them every other day for about 2 or 3 weeks. Figure 2 shows the difference in shoot heights of the different soils. A ruler shows the height on the right side of the image. Figure 3 was where I used a microscope to zoom in on the root nodules of the different plants and counted how many were in each. I did this for different stages throughout the weeks, multiple times. The final results of this experiment in figure 4 shows how bacteria is related to the plant microbiome, and how root nodules play a major role in this. There are a lot of bacteria-like figures surrounding the original root nodules placed in the agar media plates. This is especially apparent in the positive control because there are even some green/white figures in the agar media plate
TABLES, GRAPHS and PHOTOS:
This data gives us a lot of insight into how bacteria works and how they can help plants too. The rhizobia bacteria interacts with legume plants by entering the legume roots and induces a special root structure called nodules. Root nodules are formed when the legume plant allows rhizobia bacteria to infect their roots. The nodules are used to convert nitrogen in the air into ammonia for the plant to grow healthier. This is the symbiotic relationship between the legume plants and rhizobia bacteria. In the end, I was generally correct with my hypothesis, even though a few things went differently. Some things I found out during the course of my research are about plant care, and tips on how to improve the health of plants. I learned that different types of soil can affect how a plant grows so it’s important to think about this before planting. People who can benefit from these findings are botanists, who work in the field of agriculture and plant science. This information may be useful in the future, to utilize it for healthier and stronger plants. The next steps in this project would ideally be to try this same project with different plants and soils to see how bacteria can affect this as well. I would like to continue future research in this field by experimenting with what are the infections and side effects of this method. This will avoid causes of deceased plants and improve plant growth.
My references are cited below:
Souza, Rocheli de et al. “Plant growth-promoting bacteria as inoculants in agricultural soils.” Genetics and molecular biology vol. 38,4 (2015): 401-19. doi:10.1590/S1415-475738420150053. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763327/
Hayat, R., Ali, S., Amara, U. et al. Soil beneficial bacteria and their role in plant growth promotion: a review. Ann Microbiol 60, 579–598 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13213-010-0117-1
Aarhus University. "Nitrogen-fixing symbiosis is crucial for legume plant microbiome assembly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161121173823.htm>.
I would like to acknowledge Jedy because she helped me a lot with my poster and my project overall. I had scheduling issues with the class so she really helped me catch up with the class and finish my experiment. I want to thank the UMass amherst program too for the opportunity to learn this much about a subject I’ve never really considered learning about.